Archdiocese, DCFS Reach Deal on Priests

By Eric Herman
Chicago Tribune
February 23, 2006

The Archdiocese of Chicago made peace with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services Wednesday, agreeing to provide information on old allegations of priest abuse. DCFS, in turn, agreed to make timely reports to the church about its own investigations into priests.

In a "joint protocol" laying out new policies, the archdiocese and DCFS sought to end the mutual fingerpointing triggered by the case of Rev. Daniel McCormack. The archdiocese and DCFS each learned of sexual abuse allegations against McCormack in August, but allowed the priest to remain in his post.

"I think it is the most significant agreement in the country when it comes to the relationship between child welfare [officials] and the archdiocese," said DCFS director Bryan Samuels.

"They have got tools and resources that we don't have, and we welcome their help," said archdiocese communications director Colleen Dolan.

The agreement requires the archdiocese to report all child abuse allegations to DCFS, including cases in which adults say they were molested in the past. Last week, the archdiocese announced new policies on abuse cases, pledging to report adults' allegations from now on. But it balked at sharing information on adults' charges it received in the past. DCFS wants access to those files.

Details need to be worked out

Under the joint protocol, the archdiocese will provide the information on old charges to DCFS. Samuels called the deal a "narrowing from the original discussion," since the archdiocese will only be asked for cases in which the priest is still in active ministry or has access to children.

The agreement also calls for DCFS to make interim and final reports to the archdiocese of its own abuse investigations. The agency has been criticized -- by archdiocese officials, among others -- for not sharing all the information it had on McCormack with the church. DCFS can require the temporary removal of a priest or employee during its investigation, and will make a report within 48 hours of a probe's conclusion.

The pact sets a broad framework, but its details have yet to be worked out. Samuels said he did not know how many past allegations of priest abuse his agency would look at, or how far back in time their inquiries would go.

"Drawing clean lines about what's in and what's out just isn't possible," he said.

"This is a big-picture agreement, and what they will do over the next few weeks is sit down and work out the more detailed plan for going forward," Dolan said.

Advocate: Both share blame

Though some of the requirements in the agreement already exist under the law, their application to old cases and to priests has been unclear, according to Samuels.

Meanwhile, archdiocese officials have blamed DCFS for failing to report its inquiry into McCormack last year.

DCFS, however, has maintained the archdiocese had more information about the case than the agency did.

"We should judge them on their actions, not on their words," said Barbara Blaine, president of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. "DCFS supposedly did something wrong, but that doesn't let the archdiocese off the hook."


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