What Bishop Raymond Goedert Didn’t Say
By Jon Seidel
January 24, 2014
The retired Catholic bishop said he “took it for granted” that sexual abuse of a child at the hands of an adult was a crime.
And Raymond Goedert testified in his 2007 deposition that he “obviously” knew as much when he became the Archdiocese of Chicago’s vicar for priests in July 1987. He said that role essentially made him “pastor to the priests,” according to a transcript of that interview.
It was also his job, he said, to deal with allegations of sexual misconduct between minors and members of the clergy. Goedert testified that priests confronted at the time with such allegations “frequently, if not almost always, admitted” to it.
But he said he never called police. Goedert contended clergy at the time were not “mandated reporters” — required under Illinois law to report suspected child abuse to the authorities.
“Today, that’s what we would do,” Goedert said in 2007. “In those days, that wasn’t what we did. The people that we dealt with, the victims, for the most part as far as I can remember, were adults. And they certainly were free to go to the civil authorities.”
Because of his responsibility within the archdiocese to deal with sexual abuse allegations in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Goedert’s name appeared frequently in a massive collection of documents released Tuesday by a pair of attorneys whose clients have sued the archdiocese over abuse allegations and won settlements.
Goedert, through the archdiocese, declined to be interviewed by the Chicago Sun-Times.
He said in the deposition his “usual practice” as vicar for priests involved his own interview of the victim and the accused before consultation with legal advisers and mental health experts. He said some cases were taken to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, but the agency couldn’t take a report if the victims were no longer minors.
DCFS spokeswoman Karen Hawkins said clergy became mandated reporters in 2002, and she said her agency would take such a report if the accused remained in a position working with children. When that’s not the case, she said, callers are referred to local law enforcement.
She also said “mandated reporters” under Illinois law are people specifically required to report suspected child abuse to DCFS.
“That doesn’t mean that there was no obligation for him to contact law enforcement,” Hawkins said.
The archdiocese released a statement this week that said Goedert strengthened protocols for reporting clerical misconduct to DCFS. It also said Goedert was a pioneer in the management of priest misconduct allegations and the establishment of the country’s first victim assistance ministry.
Records show he served as vicar for priests until September 1991, around the time he became auxiliary bishop. He was vicar general from 1995 until 2003, and again briefly in 2004.
Goedert acknowledged in the archdiocese’s written statement that he and other church leaders “struggled to find the right resources and guidance,” and that the steps he and others took in the 1980s were “inadequate.”
In the deposition, he referred to key changes in policy starting around 1992, when the work of a commission appointed by Cardinal Joseph Bernardin led to new approaches, including the use of a review board of mostly lay people to consider fitness for ministry.
“This was the elemental sea change in the management of this issue in Chicago,” said John O’Malley, director of legal services for the archdiocese.
According to the documents released this week:
† When an anonymous caller made an allegation in 1989 against Vince McCaffrey, a former priest now serving a 20-year child porn sentence believed to be the longest of its kind ever handed to a priest, Goedert recommended moving McCaffrey to another church. “The sad thing is that this threat will hang over Vince until the day he dies,” Goedert wrote.
† Goedert expressed second thoughts in 1990 about whether the Rev. Robert Mayer, who eventually was found guilty of fondling a teenage girl in a church rectory and sentenced to three years in prison, should get to be a pastor at St. Odilo in Berwyn. “Part of me would welcome Bob being named a pastor,” Goedert wrote, “but there is also the concerns I have for the risks involved.
† In 1990, after children at Our Lady of the Snows who watched an educational police video about abuse came forward with allegations against the Rev. Daniel Mark Holihan, Goedert noted the parish’s pastor emeritus reported a Polish cleaner claimed to have “discovered Mark [Holihan] in bed with a young boy.” Goedert wrote the pastor emeritus’ concern was “that [the cleaner] is returning from Poland this Friday. When she finds out what is going on, she may blab and blow the whole thing up in our faces.”
While being questioned in the 2007 deposition, Goedert was asked whether the concern in the 1980s was about avoiding scandal rather than protecting children.
“You are separating the two,” Goedert said, “and I’d like to think we were concerned for the children.”
Contributing: Kim Janssen and Art Golab