Reform Group Targets George

By Cathleen Falsani
Chicago Sun-Times
April 11, 2006

The largest Catholic reform group in the nation on Monday called for Cardinal Francis George to resign as archbishop of Chicago if he is not willing to push for stricter monitoring of how U.S. dioceses obey new church laws governing the handling of clergy sex abuse allegations.

In a letter sent to George last week, Call to Action -- a liberal-leaning organization that claims 25,000 members nationally -- questioned his ability to govern in the wake of a scandal involving one of his priests, the Rev. Daniel McCormack, who has been charged with fondling three boys at his West Side parish between 2001 and 2005.

Call to Action's letter focused on an audit by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, where George is vice president, that found the Chicago archdiocese in "full compliance" with church laws about clergy sex abuse allegations. The audits are based on data provided by the dioceses themselves.

"In light of the absurdity of the Chicago diocese passing the audit, Call to Action asks that Cardinal George . . . use his power to replace diocesan self-audits with independent audits, and independent review boards in every diocese," the group's letter said. "If Cardinal George will not call for this change to protect our children, then for the sake of the people of Chicago, for the sake of our children across the country who are affected by the failures of U.S. bishops, we ask that he step down."

'14 years of no problems'

Colleen Dolan, George's spokeswoman, fired back, saying that Call to Action's letter was based on inaccuracies. "At what point do people get to just continue to say anything that's false and have any air of credibility?" she said.

The audit of the Chicago archdiocese was completed last fall, before the McCormack case came to light when he was arrested and charged in January 2006 with abusing two boys, Dolan said. Since then, the archdiocese has forwarded information about McCormack's case to the bishops conference, she said.

Also, the Chicago archdiocese hired an outside, independent firm to analyze what went wrong in the McCormack case. That audit found numerous missteps by the cardinal and his staff. According to the report, archdiocesan officials knew of allegations of McCormack's alleged sexual misconduct as long ago as the late 1980s when he was a seminarian, but time and again failed to act to remove him from ministry.

Still, Dolan said, Call to Action and other groups critical of George's handling of the McCormack case are out of line. "System for system this is only one case. We've had 14 years of no problems," she said.

Expert: demands not effective

Call to Action is the third group in the past two months to call for George's resignation. The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests has asked George to resign as bishop, and Voice of the Faithful, a Boston-based group, has called on him to step down as vice president of the bishops conference.

R. Scott Appleby, a Catholic historian at the University of Notre Dame, said such demands by such lay Catholic groups make "little difference at all."

"The Vatican is notably inattentive to the opinions of groups such as Call to Action or Voice of the Faithful," Appleby said.

Any decision by George or any Catholic cardinal to resign his post would be made between the cardinal and the Vatican, and in this case, most certainly with the knowledge of the pope, Appleby said, noting that George is believed to have been among the cardinals who pushed for Pope Benedict XVI's election last year.

That said, with George's admitted mishandling of the McCormack case, the pope "will certainly have taken notice," Appleby said.


Following the lead of the Chicago archdiocese, which last month released what it said is a comprehensive list of all diocesan priests who have had a substantiated allegation of sexual misconduct with minors against them, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Joliet on Monday posted a similar list on its Web site,

The following 22 priests have had a "credible/substantiated allegation(s) of sexual abuse of minors while they were serving in the Joliet diocese":

Philip Dedera
Ordained 1972
• Removed from ministry 2002

Arno Dennerlein
Ordained 1969
• On administrative leave since 2003, case pending

Lowell Fischer
Ordained 1954
• Removed from ministry 2002

Salvatore Formusa
Ordained 1935
• Retired 1985

James Frederick
Ordained 1959
• Died in 1988

John Furdek
Ordained 1984
• Removed from ministry 2000

Michael Gibbney
Ordained 1975
• Removed from ministry 1992

Lawrence Gibbs
Ordained 1973
• Removed from ministry 1992

Carroll Howlin
Ordained 1961
• On administrative leave since 2002, case pending

Frederick Lenczycki
Ordained 1972
• Removed from ministry 2002

Leonardo Mateo
Ordained 1956
• Left diocese 1984
• Public records indicate he died in 2004

Anthony Meis
Ordained 1972
• Removed from ministry 2002

Lawrence Mullins
Ordained 1977
• Removed from ministry 1993

Donald O'Connor
Ordained 1964
• Removed from ministry 2002

Donald Pock
Ordained 1958
• Removed from ministry 2002
• Died in 2004

Edward Poff
Ordained 1958
• Removed from ministry 2002

Anthony Ross
Ordained 1972
• Removed from ministry 2002

Richard Ruffalo
Ordained 1959
• Died in 1997

Henry Slade
Ordained 1969
• Removed from ministry 1990

John Slown
Ordained 1959
• Removed from ministry 1983

Edward Stefanich
Ordained 1965
• Removed from ministry 1987

Myles White
Ordained 1968
• Removed from ministry 1992


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