Cardinal: I Should Have Investigated Priest Sooner

By Jay Levine
CBS 2 [Chicago IL]
February 2, 2006

(CBS) CHICAGO Francis Cardinal George is saying he should have acted differently in regard to a priest who is now accused of molesting three boys.

And as CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine reports, the cardinal says the Rev. Daniel McCormack should have been out of ministry when the first charges against him were brought down.

"I can't imagine whats in the hearts of many people again. [W]e thought this was done, at least contained, and it doesn't seem to have been," George said.

McCormack, 37, was charged last month with two counts of aggravated sexual abuse and was charged on Wednesday with a third count. Criminal Court Judge Douglas Simpson added $300,000 to the $200,000 bond set in the earlier case, and McCormack's bond on the abuse charges combined now totals $500,000.

The original charges against McCormack stemmed from accusations that he molested two boys at St. Agatha Church, at 3147 W. Douglas Blvd. This time, he was accused of fondling a 9-year-old boy, and there are allegations that the abuse continued after he was questioned about it and released last fall.

Cook County Assistant State's Atty. Kathleen Muldoon said, "(The victim) would go over and offer to do chores for the defendant, and it was at that time when he was in the rectory that on several occasions from October of 2004 through December 31, 2005 that he was fondled by the priest."

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

George said he hoped that if McCormack did what he was accused of, "that he wouldn't put the accusers through a trial, put young people through a trial; that he would simply admit that he was guilty."

During the bond hearing, attorney Patrick Reardon, representing McCormack, pleaded with the judge ot to be swayed by media coverage.

But Simpson told him: "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. These new allegations significantly change the posture of this case."

Outside court, Reardon compared McCormack's case to a witch hunt.

"I have never felt so close to Salem, Massachusetts in my life," he said.

But George said action should have been taken sooner against McCormack, and he should have been removed from ministry right away when allegations first surfaced.

George said: "I should have gone to the police myself. I've been thinking of all kinds of ways; if I went to him and said, 'Would you please voluntarily step aside?' There are a thousand things that come to me when I try to think this through what could I have done that I obviously didn't do? And especially in the McCormack case."

George said the issue is not McCormack's guilt or innocence, but the difficulty and time it took to determine if claims leveled against him in August met the church standard of credible allegations.

"I should have found some way immediately to take him out. [T]here's no question about it," George said. "I wasn't vigil[a]nt enough in that case. I should have gone directly myself and said, 'What's the value of this allegation, officers, in your mind?'"

But Reardon said cause did not exist to remove McCormack following the first allegations.

"There was no charge in [A]ugust; the man was arrested," Reardon said. He added that he was at the police station when Reardon was arrested, but afterward, "the police dismissed that case and sent him home again."

The cardinal also said he understood how upset people were, and he would be introducing new initiatives this week to ensure that the issues involved in removing McCormack did not recur.

The archdiocese also is investigating accusations against the Rev. Joe Bennett.

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."

Bennett had been at Holy Ghost Church in South Holland since 1997 until he was removed Tuesday. Police officials said there had been no arrests in the Bennett case.


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