Board Discusses McCormack Abuse Case
National Catholic Review Board Meets
By Ben Bradley
ABC 7 [Chicago IL]
February 19, 2006
The National Catholic Review Board meets in Austin, Texas, over the weekend. The case under intense focus is that of Father Daniel McCormack, a Chicago priest who was allowed to remain in ministry despite accusations of sexual abuse against him.
The advisory group came up with the first procedures for dealing with priests accused of abuse. As they wait for the results of a church investigation, they are considering making changes to the charter that instructs church leaders in how to handle abuse allegations.
The person leading the discussion is a long-time DePaul University professor and resident of west-suburban Hinsdale.
"I don't think anyone really believes that there will never be another incident," said Patricia Ewers, Natl. Catholic Review Board Chair.
National Catholic Review Board Chairwoman Patricia Ewers says she was sad to learn that a set of guidelines pushed by the panel appears to have failed in the case of Father Dan McCormack. He's accused of molesting a boy even after church leaders had the opportunity to remove him from public ministry.
"I think there's a very deep concern about what happened and getting to the bottom of it and make sure it never happens again," said Ewers.
McCormack has become the poster-child for victims' groups who say it illustrates that Catholic Bishops did not go far enough in their 2002 meetings that produced policies for dealing with wayward priests.
"When you really look at the actions taken -- there's so much more that can be done," said Mary Grant, Survivors' Network.
Three members of the Survivors' Network of those Abused by Priests gathered outside the Catholic Review Board's meeting yesterday.
They say even Cardinal George's new plan to immediately remove priests accused of abuse -- and to publicize their names so other potential victims can come forward -- doesn't go far enough. There seems to be some consensus that it's safer to remove a priest first -- and sort out the evidence and facts later.
"Whatever the ramifications are -- his relationship with parishioners or others -- we're saddened it could be hurt or that he could feel betrayed but our reponsibility first and foremost is to protect children and young people," said Bishop Gregory Aymond, Austin, Texas Diocese. Dr. Patricia Ewers believes the Catholic Church to some extent is in a no-win situation.
"One of the real sad qualities is how vulnerable priests feel these days by virtue of being put in a situation where one accusation can ruin their lives," said Ewers.
The late Joseph Cardinal Bernardin was accused of abuse only to have his accuser later admit to making the story up.
The Archdiocese of Chicago expects to have a report on what went wrong in the Dan McCormack case next month and then the lay-person review board will analyze and make some recommendations that will be debated during the bishops meeting this summer.
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