Bond Set in New Charges against Priest

By F.N. D'Alessio
Associated Press, carried in Chicago Sun-Times
February 2, 2006

The leader of Chicago's catholic archdiocese said Thursday that he should have removed a priest charged with abusing three boys much sooner and vowed to work with authorities and state officials to revise a process "that wasn't adequate."

Cardinal Francis George made the comments at a news conference at Holy Name Cathedral hours after the Rev. Daniel McCormack was released on $300,000 bond.

The case has drawn criticism for the archdiocese because McCormack was not removed from public ministry until months after allegations against him first surfaced.

"I should have found some way to take him out (sooner)," George said. "I wasn't vigilant enough in that case. I was too used to following the process."

McCormack, 37, was charged last month with two counts of aggravated sexual abuse and was charged on Wednesday with a third count. After Thursday's hearing, his bond in the case totals $500,000.

The Cook County Sheriff's department said McCormack's bail in both cases was provided by family members.

McCormack, wearing a blue Notre Dame hooded sweat shirt, stood silently before Cook County Judge Douglas Simpson as his attorney, Patrick Reardon, proclaimed his innocence and questioned whether the high bond was due to the news media attention the case has received.

Simpson denied that allegation, saying the nature of the case justified the bond amount.

"I'm not at all impressed by the media coverage. It could be a full courtroom, it could be an empty courtroom, it wouldn't matter," Simpson said. "These new allegations significantly change the posture of this case."

In arguing for a high bond, Assistant Cook County State's Attorney Kathleen Muldoon said McCormack has lied about his identity to police on at least one occasion since allegations against him were made last August. She did not provide any details of the incident.

The nation's third-largest Roman Catholic archdiocese has said it is investigating the allegations against McCormack, who was removed from public ministry on Jan. 21, the day he was charged with the molestation of the first two boys.

Church parents and other critics have said McCormack should have been removed sooner. The archdiocese has acknowledged that one of the charges stems from an allegation of sexual abuse that was first made in August.

Saying he feels "troubled and confused," George indicated the archdiocese will announce changes as early as next week to remove priests immediately after allegations are made. Under the current policy, allegations are investigated before priests can be removed.

George also said he wants to consult with the state Department of Children and Family Services on how to make sure communities are notified of suspended priests.

"I thought that we had the process ... to take care of these things," George said. "Now, it turns out it wasn't adequate, that I wasn't adequate."

The latest charges against McCormack involve an 11-year-old boy who was not a parishioner at St. Agatha's Church, where McCormack served as pastor, Muldoon said.

She said the boy ran errands for McCormack and frequently visited the rectory, where the priest allegedly fondled him under his clothes and gave him gifts of money. Muldoon said the alleged abuse occurred between Oct. 26, 2004, and Dec. 31, 2005.

The archdiocese also is investigating accusations against the Rev. Joe Bennett, who was removed Tuesday from Holy Ghost Church in South Holland.

Incidents involving Bennett allegedly took place more than 35 years ago and involved more than one minor, archdiocese spokesman Jim Dwyer has said.

Allegations against Bennett were first made about two years ago, but no action was taken against the priest. Dwyer has said it is a "very complicated case."

Police officials said there had been no arrests in the Bennett case.

Contributing: AP writer David Brummer.


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