Archdiocese Appoints Chancellor for Probe

By Karen Hawkins
The Associated Press, caried in Chicago Sun-Times
February 15, 2006

The Archdiocese of Chicago on Wednesday appointed its chancellor to oversee internal investigations of child sex abuse allegations, and he immediately called for a review of how the church dealt with a priest who has been charged with molesting three boys.

Chancellor Jimmy Lago is to step up the archdiocese's investigations and make disciplinary recommendations, according to a statement issued Wednesday. His appointment is effective immediately.

"This new position is necessary because of the complexity of responsibilities and the sometimes uncertain information that has to be better shared," Cardinal Francis George said in the statement.

Lago declined immediate comment.

The appointment comes as the nation's third-largest Catholic diocese is under fire for what critics see as its sluggish response to removing priests accused of abuse.

In the statement, Lago said one of his first actions was to launch an independent review of the archdiocese's handling of allegations against the Rev. Daniel McCormack, a West Side priest accused of abusing three boys.

Critics contend the archdiocese should have removed McCormack from his position immediately after allegations against him first surfaced in August. Instead, McCormack was allowed to stay at St. Agatha Church on Chicago's West side until the day he was charged in January.

George has apologized for not moving faster to remove McCormack.

Lago has also called for the archdiocese to report all child abuse allegations to authorities, even when the alleged victim is no longer a minor.

And a safety plan proposed by Lago could include the "immediate and/or temporary removal" of clergy accused of abuse.

Two civil lawsuits have been filed against the archdiocese and McCormack on behalf of two of his alleged victims. A lawsuit filed Friday seeks $10 million in damages.

The archdiocese will also review the decision not to immediately remove the Rev. Joseph Bennett, a priest accused in sex abuse incidents that took place more than 35 years ago.

Bennett had been at Holy Ghost Church in South Holland since 1997 until he was removed earlier this month. There have been no arrests in the Bennett case.

Lago has been chancellor of the archdiocese since 2000.


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