Cardinal: Mistakes Were Made

By Carla K. Johnson
Chicago Sun-Times
January 28, 2006

A day after being released from a hospital, Cardinal Francis George said Saturday had he known several months ago what he knows now regarding a priest charged with molesting two boys, he would have found a way to remove him from a West Side parish.

"Had I known then what I think I know now, we would have perhaps found some way to take him out," George said.

The Rev. Daniel McCormack was charged Jan. 21 with two counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse. Prosecutors say he repeatedly molested two boys between 2001 and 2005.

McCormack was suspended and removed from St. Agatha Church several days before he was charged, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago has said.

But some critics have questioned why McCormack was allowed to remain at the church. The archdiocese has acknowledged that one of the charges stems from an allegation of sexual abuse that was first made in August.

Police investigated that allegation, but charges were not filed immediately because prosecutors at the time determined there was insufficient evidence supporting the claim.

Archdiocese attorneys repeatedly asked prosecutors and the family of the alleged victim for more information, but their requests went unheeded, George said. Church procedures mandate that a victim come forward before a priest can be removed and since the family did not cooperate archdiocese authorities could do nothing, he said.

"This is the opposite of what you usually think of as a cover up," George said.

Although McCormack was allowed to remain at the church, George has said he was assigned a personal monitor and told to have no unsupervised contact with children.

George said on Saturday that the monitor who was assigned wasn't adequately briefed on the situation. He also said he wished McCormack had been assigned several monitors instead of just one.

The Chicago Sun-Times also has reported that a nun warned church officials about McCormack's behavior with children at another church in 2000. The nun, whom the newspaper did not name, said she told archdiocese officials verbally and in writing about an incident involving a young boy but that her warnings went unheeded.

George on Saturday said he is now aware of a conversation in 2000 between the nun and a person in the archdiocese's schools office. He said while he could not confirm whether a letter was written by the nun, the policies of the archdiocese were not followed because civil authorities were not alerted.

"If the policies had been followed at that time, we wouldn't have been here today," he said.

The cardinal, who said this has been a "learning experience," plans to visit St. Agatha parish this week to spend time with parents and children.

"I've been here for eight years, and he was a priest whose reputation was sterling," George said "Again, had we had more conversation with the school community, perhaps we would have found out that there were others who didn't share that high opinion."

George said he has been saddened by the situation.

"I think we failed in certain instances to respond adequately," he said. "We didn't find out enough and we didn't find out quickly enough. ... It's a sad moment. The sins of priests and bishops destroy the church, and I think that's what we're seeing here."

A phone message to Patrick Reardon, McCormack's attorney, was not immediately returned.

George was released Friday from Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood after being admitted Thursday for medical tests. The diocese had said the 69-year-old cardinal had been bothered by periodic dizziness that started before he left for New Zealand and Rome about two weeks ago, and doctors have ruled out a stroke.

George was appointed in 1997 to head the archdiocese, which serves about 2.4 million Catholics in the Chicago area.


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