George to Seek Healing at Church

By Maureen O'Donnell
Chicago Sun-Times
January 30, 2006

Cardinal Francis George said he hopes for healing when he meets today with parishioners at a Chicago church reeling from allegations a popular priest abused two young boys.

George said he plans to listen when he visits St. Agatha, 3147 W. Douglas.

"I want to come and be with them, and encourage them, and then hear what they would like to talk about," he said Sunday. "They're certainly in my concerns and in my prayers. ... You can't heal without some sense of truth, so we'll, we'll explore that together."

The Rev. Daniel McCormack is charged with two counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse. Prosecutors say he fondled one boy multiple times while they were both in the rectory beginning in September 2001, when the boy was 9, until January 2005, when he was 12. McCormack is also charged with fondling another boy, then 8, on two occasions in December 2003 while alone with him after mass.

Critics questioned why McCormack wasn't removed from St. Agatha when police interviewed him last August. At that time, authorities had no sufficient evidence to file charges. He was charged Jan. 21. George pointed to church protocols on such accusations.

"The point is, there was no allegation given to the archdiocese in August, and with that fact, everything else kind of falls into place," he said. "And so that's very unfortunate because had that allegation been made, we could have, I think, moved very quickly."

Acknowledges he has regrets

The protocols call for the removal from ministry of any priest with even one credible allegation of abuse, but first, the accusations must be brought to the archdiocese by the victim or the victim's parent or guardian. Instead, the allegations against McCormack were first brought to law enforcement.

After a mass at St. Vincent de Paul Church for Sister Frances Ryan, who is marking 50 years of church service, George acknowledged he has regrets about the handling of the case.

"Oh, sure, you look back, and, yeah, we could have done things somewhat differently, but within the context of the, not having any facts, not having an allegation. ..," he said.

Members of the group Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests handed out leaflets Sunday outside St. Agatha, urging anyone with information about such allegations to call law enforcement. Auxiliary Bishop John Manz also visited the church Sunday.

"He tried to explain what went wrong and why we didn't know things sooner," said archdiocesan spokesman Jim Dwyer.


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