Board Urged Archdiocese to Pull Priest, Official Says

By Gretchen Ruethling
The New York Times
February 25, 2006

CHICAGO, Feb. 24 — A review board of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago advised Cardinal Francis George to remove a priest accused of molesting young boys three months before he was arrested and removed from ministry, according to the state's top child welfare agency official.

The official, Bryan Samuels, director of the Department of Children and Family Services, said Friday in a telephone interview that the archdiocese refused to follow the board's advice to remove the priest, the Rev. Daniel McCormack. Father McCormack of St. Agatha Catholic Church was removed from ministry last month when he was charged with sexually abusing three boys. One boy says he was abused as recently as December.

Mr. Samuels said the board made its recommendation in October, but he would not elaborate. The board's action was reported by WBBM-TV, CBS 2 News, here on Wednesday night.

Jim Dwyer, a spokesman for the archdiocese, said he could not confirm or deny the report of the board's recommendation. "It's my understanding that it wasn't an official recommendation," he said.

Mr. Dwyer said he did not know when the board was made aware of the case or when any discussions with Cardinal George took place. Any such discussions would be confidential until the chancellor for the archdiocese, Jimmy M. Lago, has reviewed the case, Mr. Dwyer said.

Mr. Dwyer would not release the names of the six lay people and three priests on the board.

The archdiocese came under fire when it was disclosed that officials knew about a police interview with Father McCormack in August but did not remove him until January.

Archdiocese officials have said a lack of information from the police and welfare agency officials prevented them from acting sooner. The cardinal has acknowledged that he should have acted sooner.

But some critics say if the archdiocese refused to follow the board's advice, that calls into question the effectiveness of policies put into place by the nation's bishops in 2002 to improve reporting and handling of accusations of sexual abuse by priests.

"I think this situation, if it's true, is worse than Boston, because it's four years later," said Anne M. Burke, an appeals court judge in Illinois and the former chairwoman of the church's National Review Board.

Judge Burke said the 2002 policies should be an ingrained process by now but had never been audited for their effectiveness. "We would have no way of knowing that they ever followed any of these policies," she said.

Barbara Blaine, president of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said Cardinal George should be held accountable for not acting sooner if the review board did advise removal in October.

"Cardinal George should resign over this," Ms. Blaine said. "If he won't listen to anyone else, and he won't listen to his review board, then we think that he's knowingly, recklessly putting kids at risk and he can't be trusted in that position."


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