Anti-Abuse Group Calls on Cardinal George to Resign

February 25, 2006

CHICAGO (WBBM) -- A group of anti-abuse activists that has been increasingly critical of Francis Cardinal George is now calling upon him to resign as Roman Catholic Archbishop of Chicago.

A spokesman for the Archdiocese said the Cardinal has no intention of resigning.

Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) President and founder Barbara Blaine said the problem in the way the Archdiocese has addressed accusations of sexual misconduct by priests is not the system, but Cardinal George himself.

"He is irresponsible, deceptive and secretive," Blaine said. "Based upon that we believe that Cardinal George should step down."

Blaine claimed that Cardinal George "places the reputation of individual priests above the safety of Catholic children."

The group claims that the Cardinal refuses to appeal personally, through the Archdiocesan Web site, through its newspaper (the Catholic New World) or through church bulletins for the public to come forward to police with accusations.

Blaine also accused Cardinal George of ignoring repeated warnings and the advice of his own sex abuse committee with respect to Fr. Daniel McCormack, who was suspended only after his arrest last month on charges relating to three boys.

Some of the charges involved alleged misconduct as recently as late December.

Although Cardinal George himself has repeatedly denied it, Blaine insists that the Cardinal had enough evidence to remove McCormack from active ministry six years ago.

George could not step down unilaterally. He would have to submit a letter of resignation to Pope Benedict XVI, who would then decide whether to accept the resignation.

Blaine did not indicate whom she believes would be a good replacement, or whether it should be one of the Cardinal's auxiliary bishops. But she said she believed any archbishop appointed by Pope Benedict would want to "clean up this mess."

She made her call as she stood in front of St. Agatha's Church, the Lawndale-area parish in which Fr. McCormack was pastor until his arrest. As she spoke, parishioners and their children arrived for and left its Saturday tutoring program.

Among those coming from St. Agatha's was Phyllis Lee, who said she has attended St. Agatha's since she was five years old.

"It was always something about him that was stand-offish about the adults, but not the children," Lee said. "Now I realize what it is and I feel bad for our church because it's a good church."

Lee admitted to a run-in with Fr. McCormack, who refused to allow a funeral for her father at St. Agatha's, but said fellow parishioners talked her out of going to another parish.

"It hurts and I'm still trying to deal with it," she said. "All I can do is pray and pray for our parishioners."

The message board outside of St. Agatha's reads, "Pray, pray, pray."

Archdiocesan spokesman Jim Dwyer said that George has admitted that he should have acted more quickly with respect to Fr. McCormack, but lacked "first hand" information on the accusations. Dwyer said the mechanics are in place to prevent a similar problem in the future.

As a result, Dwyer said, the Cardinal will not resign.

He said the Cardinal will not speak publicly on SNAP's demand, saying that Cardinal George already has spoken "over and over" on the issue.

Cardinal George, a native northwest sider and the first native Chicagoan to be named to head the Archdiocese, was appointed by Pope John Paul II in April 1997. He was elevated to the rank of Cardinal in February 1998.

WBBM is attempting to obtain a response from the Archdiocese.


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