Cardinal Pleas with Priests to Not Lead 'A Double Life'

February 11, 2006

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Francis Cardinal George on Saturday offered an apology, and a plea to the 850 priests in the Chicago Archdiocese.

As CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine reports, the apology was for his handling of his case of the Rev. Daniel McCormack, who was indicted on Friday on sexual abuse charges. He was accused of sexually abusing three young boys in his church rectory, and the indictment on Friday stemmed from allegations from one of the boys.

"Our response… was sorely inadequate," George said in a letter written last week and received by priests over the past few days.

"I apologize to each of you for not finding some way to at least provisionally remove McCormack," George added in the letter.

George has been under fire for allowing McCormack to remain in ministry after he was first picked up and investigated by police last summer on abuse allegations.

The controversy has prompted nearly daily attacks from victims questioning the candor and commitment of the church.

At a news conference Saturday, the group Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests revealed another victim's six-figure settlement with the archdiocese and named names.

"The issue is that Cardinal George's leadership has not created an environment that fosters openness and transparency," said Barbara Blaine of the Survivors Network. "Cardinal George's leadership fosters secrecy and the protection of his priests over the protection of children."

The cardinal has repeatedly apologized for his handling of the McCormack case. We have learned that he is planning an announcement on Monday of an independent investigation of what happened, a new policy of quicker action against priests who've been accused, and a new structure with a single person responsible dealing with all aspects of sexual misconduct.

But in his letter to priests, the cardinal, for the first time, went beyond the sex abuse scandal in an appeal to those who may be violating church policies.

"If there is any priest who is leading a double life – who is engaged in dishonest or sinful practices that destroy the church – he should for the sake of the church, come forward," George wrote. "If a priest cannot change and convert anew, he should leave his sacred office in the church."


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