George Extends His Apology to Churchgoers

By Jim Ritter
Chicago Sun-Times
February 13, 2006

In addressing his handling of sex abuse cases, Cardinal Francis George has issued apologies to priests, the media and members of affected parishes.

On Sunday, George extended his apologies to churchgoers throughout the Archdiocese of Chicago.

"I must apologize to all of you for the great embarrassment every Catholic must now feel in the light of media scrutiny of these events," George wrote in a letter he asked to be distributed at Sunday masses.

The two-page letter, addressed to "brothers and sisters in Christ," concluded: "I pray that a failure to act more quickly on my part will not harm the archdiocese itself. You are in my prayers; please keep me in yours. God bless you."

'You don't kick your mother'

The letter is dated last Wednesday. But because of technical problems, it was not faxed to most parishes until Friday or Saturday, and it's unknown how many parishioners received copies of the letter, said archdiocese spokeswoman Dianne Dunagan.

Also on Sunday, several hundred Catholics rallied on the steps of Holy Name Cathedral, 735 N. State, in a show of support for George.

"Even if there are problems, the church is our mother, and you don't kick your mother when she is down," said Becky Dula, a member of St. Mary of the Angels parish, who attended the rally.

Rally organizer John McCartney said the archdiocese needs to make repairs, "and the cardinal is the one to do it."

George supporters held signs that read, "In Cardinal George we trust," and "Proud to be Catholic." They prayed, sang, held up rosaries and chanted "Who do we love? Cardinal George!"

'Anti-Catholic bias' cited

The scandal also was addressed at some Sunday masses.

At St. Irenaeus in south suburban Park Forest, parishioners signed a petition asking George to give a "full explanation" of how he handled sex abuse allegations.

The petition said the scandal "has become a perfect storm to arouse suspicion that children have been improperly protected from being abused by priests."

At St. Mary Church in west suburban Riverside, Monsignor R. George Sarauskas wrote in the church bulletin that sex abuse happens elsewhere, too, including in families, sports organizations and other churches. But, he added, "the Church is particularly vulnerable because of an anti-Catholic bias" in the media and culture.

Such bias, he wrote, is "the last prejudice that is still politically allowable."

Sunday was the beginning of the archdiocese's annual Catholic Appeal fund-raising campaign to help the poor, fund Catholic education and support lay ministers and deacons.

None of the money raised in the special Sunday collections will be used to pay legal fees or lawsuit judgments related to sex abuse cases, Dunagan said.

Contributing: Andrew Herrmann


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