Most of Priest's Parishes Accused Him
Prosecutors may have found 4 new victims, 2 others possible

By Kate N. Grossman and Julie Patel
Chicago Sun-Times
June 27, 2002

A former priest charged with possessing child pornography allegedly abused boys at virtually every parish where he worked over a 13-year period, the Chicago archdiocese said Wednesday after Vincent McCaffrey's bond hearing.

Prosecutors have identified four new possible victims, bringing to five the number of identified people who have accused McCaffrey of abuse. Authorities believe there may be two others as well.

"Every parish received allegations related to it," said Mary McDonough, a spokeswoman for the archdiocese. "Most or all parishes he served in."

McCaffrey is charged with having thousands of pages of child pornography on his computer, on three CD-ROMs and on papers stuffed under his mattress.

Meanwhile, in a speech to the City Club Wednesday, Cardinal Francis George said he is turning his attention to the fates of three retired priests who were recently identified as past sexual abusers.

This comes after George removed eight active priests Tuesday.

McCaffrey was removed from his last parish in 1991 after allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced. He resigned from the church in 1993 and received an $85,000 settlement for counseling and to help him transition out of church life.

"[Based on] additional victims that we have uncovered of Mr. McCaffrey at the time, he can only be described as a predator of little children," Assistant U.S. Attorney T. Markus Funk said at McCaffrey's bond hearing.

The new disclosures conflict with a statement McCaffrey made to authorities that he hasn't had contact with minors for 15 years.

McCaffrey worked as an associate pastor at St. Victor in Calumet City from 1978 to 1982; at St. Joseph the Worker in Wheeling from 1982 to 1987; St. Josaphat at 2311 N. Southport from 1987 to 1989; and Our Lady of Good Counsel, 3528 S. Hermitage, from 1989 to 1991. He worked as a deacon at Our Lady Help of Christians, 832 N. Leclaire.

The Rev. Leo Mahon, McCaffrey's superior at St. Victor, said he asked McCaffrey to leave after McCaffrey admitted to abusing two boys. Mahon said he was surprised to find McCaffrey reassigned almost immediately.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Arlander Keys ordered McCaffrey held without bail but left open the possibility that his lawyer could get him out if certain, strict conditions were met. Prosecutors are pushing to keep McCaffrey in jail.

At the City Club, George said he wanted to make sure three retired priests aren't presenting themselves as priests in any way, a move mandated by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops policy passed in Dallas earlier this month.

The national policy says no priest who abuses a child may call himself a priest or wear priestly garb. This means he can't celebrate the mass in public or serve the church in any capacity, however minor.

The three retired priests, who are not serving in public ministries, were removed in recent months after allegations--some dating back 45 years--were substantiated against them. George said he wants to meet with them, sort out their new responsibilities--and do it all with great care. "Those are older men and you want to spend some time talking to them," George said.

The three priests are the Rev. Marion Snieg, a retired priest who was working as a part-time chaplain at a Wheeling nursing home until earlier this month; the Rev. Peter Bowman, a retired priest in residence at St. Teresa of Avila in Lincoln Park in May; and the Rev. Richard Fassbinder, who retired from a Lake Villa parish in 1997.

In the speech, George also said allegations of sexual misconduct against one priest, the Rev. Clarence Beckley, could not be substantiated.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.