Cardinal George Writes Apology to All Parishioners

February 19, 2006

CHICAGO (WBBM-TV) -- Francis Cardinal George prepared a letter this weekend apologizing to all parishioners for the scrutiny they have endured following a high-profile sexual abuse scandal.

In the letter, George discussed the conduct of the Rev. Daniel McCormack, who was criminally charged last month on allegations that he sexually abused young boys at his West Side parish. He wrote that McCormack's case "undermines" the work of U.S. bishops to weed out priests that are a threat to children.

George wrote that in June 2002, the U.S. bishops promised "that priests who were shown to have ever abused a minor, even once, would be permanently removed from public ministry if not from the priesthood," and programs would be set up to protect children from harm.

The letter added that the Archdiocese had been working to ensure that children were safe before this initiative, and "has had a deservedly good reputation in responding to this crisis."

But, George wrote, "The case of Father Daniel McCormack undermines all this now."

The procedure for handling a priest accused of sexual abuse is to restrict his ministry upon allegations and appoint a monitor, and remove the priest if probable cause is found to suspect that some form of abuse happened. But that process did not occur in McCormack's case, George wrote.

"Father McCormack was not in any sense 'protected' from the civil authorities by the Archdiocese of Chicago," George wrote. "Before any allegation came to the Archdiocese, he was arrested by police, questioned and let go. When I learned of his arrest three days after it occurred, I restricted his ministry while we waited for an allegation to begin the process of investigation. It now seems that additional information was available that did not reach our offices. The process we have used well to remove predators was not engaged quickly enough."

George added in the letter: "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 In particular, I am deeply sorry for the pain of those Catholics who are part of St Agatha's Parish (at 3147 W. Douglas Blvd., where McCormack worked)."

George assured parishioners in his letter that "we will work to be more immediately responsive and to move cases along more quickly," as well as work to ensure that information is more widely shared with civil authorities and others.

George wrote that the Archdiocese would look at possibilities for improving the services available at the Archdiocese for reporting abuse.

"All of this is necessary; none of it will of itself remove the pain of the moment," George wrote. "We can only pray that pain will be redemptive in this case and that the Lord will heal us- I pray that a failure to act more quickly on my part will not harm the Archdiocese itself."

McCormack was investigated by police and the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services last summer, yet he was not removed from ministry.

Despite being monitored, McCormick is alleged to have molested another youth as recently as December.

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 previously for not moving faster to remove McCormack.

Archdiocese Chancellor Jimmy Lago, a longtime child welfare professional, was appointed recently with the responsibility of keeping child molesting priests out of Chicago churches.

The new church game plan includes a former FBI agent's independent review of the McCormack case.

Another veteran investigator will evaluate the way the archdiocese monitors priests charged or removed from ministry.

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.

George's letter to parishioners was dated for Sunday.


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