Woman Who Claimed Priest Abuse in 1960s Settled with Church for $125,000

By Carla K. Johnson
Associated Press, carried in Belleville News-Democrat
February 11, 2006

CHICAGO - At a time when the priest sex abuse scandal has risen anew here, a Florida woman who accused three priests of sexual misconduct released copies Saturday of a $125,000 settlement she reached with the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago in 2004.

The archdiocese offered the settlement after the woman claimed a priest molested her 40 years ago when she was 16 and two other priests had sexual relations with her when she was a young adult, according to a copy of the settlement agreement.

The woman, Linda Lee Burke, 56, of Manatee County, Fla., said she decided to make the settlement public after seeing how the archdiocese handled recent allegations of sexual abuse by another priest, the Rev. Daniel McCormack.

"I was very distressed when I heard all that and really thought the church had developed enough of a program that they would be able to address the issue," Burke said Saturday in a telephone interview.

She said she "realized I'm protecting these priests by not naming them."

Cardinal Francis George has said he responded too slowly in the McCormack case.

He has written a letter to be read to parishioners on Sunday in which he discusses the diocese's failure to remove the priest. In the letter, George apologized for the pain caused to McCormack's former parish and the embarrassment the case is causing among Catholics.

Spokeswoman Dianne Dunagan called it a "personal letter" from the cardinal to parishioners.

"The cardinal wanted to talk to the people about this current abuse situation," she said, adding the letter, which was dated Feb. 8, was sent to churches throughout the Chicago area.

In the settlement, the archdiocese acknowledges that Burke claimed the Rev. John Rohrich "sexually abused Burke while Burke was a minor," but denies negligence.

The settlement states that "some of the priests have either specifically denied that they abused Burke or are dead and unable to respond to these allegations."

Dunagan said Saturday that the archdiocese does not comment on settlements.

Chicago attorney Joseph Klest confirmed he represented Burke in the 2004 settlement.

Rohrich, who was a priest at St. Eulalia parish in Maywood and at St. Matthias in Chicago during the alleged abuse, left the priesthood to marry, Burke said.

A telephone message left for a John Rohrich was not immediately returned. It was unclear whether the Rohrich contacted was the same man named in the settlement.

Burke, who publicized the settlement with help from the advocacy group Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests, said a second priest who allegedly had sexual encounters with Burke when she was 19 also left the priesthood to get married.

A third priest accused of having sexual contact with Burke when she was 18 has died.

The Associated Press is not naming the priests accused of having sexual contact with Burke when she was a young adult.

The archdiocese has come under scrutiny for its response to the allegations of abuse made against McCormack, who is accused of molesting three boys between September 2001 and January 2005.

McCormack was allowed to remain at his West Side parish until he was charged on Jan. 21 with aggravated criminal sexual abuse - months after an allegation was made to police.

But some area Catholics are expressing support for the cardinal.

A newly formed organization said it plans to hold a rally Sunday afternoon at Holy Name Cathedral.

"This is an ad hoc group that got together just to let the cardinal know we don't agree with everything being said about him," said Connie McCartney of Chicago, who helped organize the group, Catholics for the Cardinal.


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