Church Abuse Victims Praise Settlement
By Carla K. Johnson
[Note from BishopAccountability.org: This article contains a reference to the deposition of Cardinal Francis E. George. Below we have added a link to the quoted passage.]
Bob Brancato is prone to flashbacks when he sees a brand of soap he used as a child to clean himself after his Roman Catholic priest sexually abused him.
After Therese Albrecht was repeatedly raped by her priest when she was young, she lost faith in God, spent years in therapy and considered suicide.
Both are part of a $12.6 million settlement announced Tuesday with the Archdiocese of Chicago. They said the money means less to them than a candid deposition made public in the case by Cardinal Francis George.
"The archdiocese has finally taken that cloak of secrecy out of the equation," Brancato said.
Brancato and Albrecht, who spoke at a press conference, are among 16 clergy sexual abuse victims who settled with the archdiocese. Individual monetary amounts were not released.
"What price do you put on an 8-year-old's virginity?" asked Albrecht, 48, who said she was raped and sodomized from age 8 to 11 by a priest at St. John De La Salle on Chicago's South Side.
In a 307-page deposition, George answered searching questions from an attorney for victims concerning why priests were not removed despite growing accusations of sexual abuse.
Attorneys said it was the first time such a candid question-and-answer session under oath by one of the Catholic Church's top leaders had been unsealed and made public because of a settlement agreement.
In one instance, two months after one priest was arrested and then released by police in August 2005, a review board of the archdiocese recommended removing him from the ministry, but George took no action.
"They gave me that advice, yes," George said. "I wish that I had followed it with all my heart." [See Deposition p. 81.]
As part of the settlement, George agreed to make a public apology and also privately apologize to each victim, said attorney Jeff Anderson, who represented some of the victims.
"My hope is that these settlements will help the survivors and their families begin to heal and move forward," George said in a statement. "I apologize again today to the survivors and their families and to the whole Catholic community."
Brancato, 39, said he was raped at the ages of 12 and 13 by the Rev. James R. Steel, a priest at St. Joseph the Worker Church in Wheeling.
"It will never be over for me," Brancato said. Still in therapy and on medication after "26 years of burying it deep inside, of suicide attempts, I now know that it wasn't my fault," Brancato said.
A telephone listing for James R. Steel, who resigned in 1992, could not be located.
Fourteen cases settled Tuesday involve sexual abuse by 10 different priests. Two involve an 11th priest, the Rev. Daniel J. McCormack, who pleaded guilty last year to abusing five children and is serving a five-year prison sentence.
Three of the priests are dead and two are in prison. Messages left at listings for Robert Craig, Robert E. Mayer and Joseph C. Owens were not immediately returned Tuesday and a telephone listing could not be found for James C. Hagan, who resigned in 1997.
"I lost Jesus in this," Albrecht said, adding she still considers herself a Christian. "I don't know how that happened, but it did. How do I get that back?"
The settlement brings to $65 million the total paid by the archdiocese over three decades to settle about 250 claims, Chancellor Jimmy Lago said. Mediation continues in about a couple dozen more cases, he said.
Associated Press writers Mike Robinson and Sophia Tareen contributed
to this report.
Any original material on these pages is copyright © BishopAccountability.org 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.