Archdiocese Praised on Sex Abuse, Monitoring Questioned

By Cathleen Falsani
Chicago Sun-Times
February 22, 2007,CST-NWS-cath22.article

After eight months of scrutiny, a committee of law enforcement agents, jurists, child welfare advocates and other civic leaders issued a report Wednesday praising the Chicago archdiocese for making strides in the handling of clergy sex abuse cases, but questioned whether more could be done to monitor priests who have been removed from ministry.

"We believe that the existing archdiocesan programs for supervision of these clerics, while far from perfect as noted by the evaluator, constitute a sincere and practical attempt to fulfill this moral responsibility," the report said. "Archdiocesan supervision programs far exceed that which is required of registered sex offenders under state law.

"We recommend that efforts should be made to encourage younger clerics determined to have engaged in clerical sexual misconduct to resign voluntarily. . . . Ways should be found to enforce more restrictive living conditions on those who will not resign."

Cameras installed at home

Cardinal Francis George assembled the ad hoc committee nearly a year ago in the wake of the scandal surrounding the Rev. Daniel McCormack, a Chicago priest who has been charged with sexually abusing six boys between 2001 and 2005.

Archdiocesan officials have said that McCormack was being "monitored" by another priest while at least one of the alleged incidents of abuse took place. McCormack has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Among the ad hoc committee's nine members are Cook County Juvenile Court Judge Michael Howlett and retired Judge Julia Quinn Dempsey; Mary Anne Brown, executive director of the Hepzibah Children's Association of Oak Park, and Raymond Rose, chief of the Mundelein Police Department.

More than a half dozen priests who have been removed from ministry because of allegations of sexual misconduct with minors reside in a retreat house on the Mundelein Seminary campus.

According to the ad hoc committee's report, 18 men out of more than 1,450 archdiocesan clerics require monitoring because of sex abuse allegations. Of those, 13 are 65 or older, several are infirm, and seven live in retirement or nursing homes. In the past year, external surveillance cameras have been installed at the Mundelein house, and on-site full-time supervision has been added.

Considered defrocking priests

Archdiocesan Chancellor Jimmy Lago said there was substantial debate between archdiocesan officials and the ad hoc committee about the monitoring issue, including whether to forcibly laicize, or defrock, the priests so they technically would not be under the archdiocese's authority.

"Frankly, you don't get credit for trying real hard. If something happens, they don't care that you've done everything you legally can do without a court order or manacles," Lago said. "I'm not saying this angrily. You just don't get a lot of room for mistakes on this."



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