Woman Reveals Settlement with Church

By Monifa Thomas
Chicago Sun-Times
February 12, 2006

A Florida woman who said she was sexually abused by three Catholic priests more than 35 years ago came forward Saturday with the details of a $125,000 settlement she reached with the Chicago Roman Catholic Archdiocese in 2004.

Now 56, Linda Burke said she was molested by a priest from a Maywood church when she was 16, and the sexual contact continued at the hands of two other priests until she was 19.

Burke said she decided to go public with the settlement after seeing how the archdiocese handled recent allegations of abuse against the Rev. Daniel McCormack, of St. Agatha parish in North Lawndale.

Prosecutors charged McCormack, 37, with aggravated criminal sexual abuse for allegedly molesting three boys at the parish between September 2001 and December 2005.

Priests were from Maywood

Cardinal Francis George and officials from the archdiocese have said they knew McCormack was questioned by police last summer but did not immediately remove him from the ministry because the family of one of the boys did not bring the allegations directly to the archdiocese.

George has since apologized for that delay and pledged quicker action against priests who are accused of sexual abuse.

Still, Burke, in a written statement, said the archdiocese isn't doing enough to protect children.

"I have been struggling to understand how such a failure can occur given all the efforts that have been made to change how the archdiocese responds to allegations of clergy sexual abuse of minors," she wrote.

The statement, along with copies of the settlement, were distributed Saturday by members of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests at a press conference that Burke did not attend.

Two of the alleged abusers were from St. Eulalia parish in Maywood, where Burke was a parishioner. One of the priests was from St. James parish, also in Maywood.

One priest recently died, while the other two left the priesthood to marry, according to SNAP.

The Sun-Times is not naming any of the men, because none of them has been charged with a crime.

Reached by phone in south Florida, Burke, who is now a social worker who deals with child victims of crime, explained that she first reported the abuse to the archdiocese in the early 1990s. She said she was not ready at that time to name the priests, but when she did a year later, the investigation did not go anywhere.

Dianne Dunagan, a spokeswoman from the archdiocese, said Saturday she had not reviewed Burke's case because the files were not available over the weekend, and could not comment.

No admission of guilt

In 2002, when a priest sex abuse scandal erupted in Boston, Burke said she again approached the archdiocese. At her urging, the archdiocese's Professional Responsibility Review Board looked into the allegations against the priest who allegedly molested her when she was 16.

In 2004, the board issued a letter saying "there is reasonable cause to suspect that the alleged misconduct occurred." But in the settlement that followed, the archdiocese did not make any admission of guilt.

Burke said she hopes her coming forward is "a message to everybody to stop protecting the priests who abuse children."

Dunagan said a letter from George asking victims of abuse to come forward was sent to parishes around the area and is to be read at mass today.

Contributing: Stefano Esposito


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