$12.7M Settlement Reached in Chicago Clergy Abuse

By Mike Robinson
Belleville News-Democrat
August 12, 2008

[Note from This article contains references to the deposition of Cardinal Francis E. George. Below we have added links to the deposition and its exhibits.]

CHICAGO — The Archdiocese of Chicago agreed Tuesday to pay almost $12.7 million to 16 men and women who told of agonizing flashbacks, years in therapy and recurring thoughts of suicide after sexual abuse as children at the hands of priests.

"I apologize again today to the survivors and their families and to the whole Catholic community," said Cardinal Francis George, who also made public an extraordinary 307-page deposition that detailed the church's tortured efforts and, at times, failures to confront the scandal.

George acknowledged that church leaders acted far too slowly in some cases.

"I think all of us failed in the end - I must take responsibility for it," said George, the spiritual leader of Chicago's huge Catholic archdiocese since 1997.

Attorneys said it was the first time such a deposition has been released publicly as part of a settlement with victims. Another similar deposition came out during a clergy abuse trial in California.

Fourteen cases settled Tuesday involve sexual abuse by 10 different priests. Two involve an 11th priest, the Rev. Daniel J. McCormack, who pleaded guilty last year to abusing five children and is serving a five-year prison sentence.

McCormack was arrested in August 2005 after a 10-year-old boy claimed the priest had fondled him. Police said the boy's story was credible but released McCormack after getting a call from an official of the archdiocese.

Jeff Anderson, an attorney for the victims, confronted George as part of the grueling, daylong deposition with a memo saying the archdiocesan official later advised McCormack not to talk to the police. [See Exhibit 118. It was during the arrest that Grace advised McCormack "not to discuss the matter further with the police."]

"Is that something you approve of?" the attorney asked during the deposition.

"No, that's not part of his responsibilities," George said. [See Deposition p. 121.]

One of the plaintiffs, Therese Albrecht, 48, of Steger, said that she had been raped and sodomized from age 8 to 11 by the Rev. Joseph R. Bennett of Chicago. She said she lived with the agony for decades before finally reporting it and then felt that the archdiocese didn't believe her story.

Bennett was removed as a priest in 2006, about two years after Albrecht came forward. Attorneys for the victims said church officials dragged their feet in acting on complaints against Bennett. George said that the investigation was not complete.

"Without counsel, the recommendation was premature," he said. [See Deposition p. 145.]

Attempts by The Associated Press to reach Bennett were unsuccessful. Three listed phone numbers for a Joseph R. Bennett in Illinois had been disconnected and no one picked up at a fourth listing.

Despite the settlement, Albrecht, now a Steger housewife, said "today is not a happy, joyous day for me." She said she had spent years in therapy and at one point contemplated suicide.

"I'm glad I survived this - I didn't think I would," she said.

During the deposition, George also answered tough questions concerning his slowness to throw McCormack out of the ministry.

Two months after McCormack's arrest, a church review board urged George to severe the priest from the ministry.

"They gave me that advice, yes," George said. "I wish that I had followed it with all my heart." [See Deposition p. 81.]

But the cardinal said he did not follow that advice because he "thought that they had not finished the investigation - they hadn't considered all the evidence." [See Deposition p. 81.]

And as late as January 2006, McCormack was still teaching a math class, coaching a boys basketball team and taking some boys to a restaurant. [See Exhibit 128 and Deposition p. 139.] He has since been removed from the ministry.

George acknowledged that while another priest with a history of sexual abuse, the Rev. Norbert Maday, was serving a Wisconsin prison sentence, the archdiocese was sending him a $200-a-month stipend with eventually was raised to $300 a month. [See Exhibit 25 and Deposition pp. 253-54.]

The cardinal, however, sharply denied that he had dragged his feet when Wisconsin officials asked the church for documents to help them to take civil court action to keep Maday in custody as a sexual predator after his sentence was up.

"I wrote a letter, maybe two asking that the State of Wisconsin not release him for the protection of children," George said during the deposition. [See Deposition p. 247.] He did acknowledge that he urged Maday to enter a prison treatment program, saying it could lead to his early release but denied he did so to get Maday out of prison sooner.

Anderson showed George a May 1999 letter [see Exhibit 26] to the Wisconsin parole commission from the vicar of priests saying the archdiocese was ready to accept Maday back and take financial responsibility for him. George said [see Deposition p. 256] the letter suggested that the archdiocese was assuring the officials that Maday would be living in circumstances that would keep him away from children.

George agreed to the public apology and to apologize privately to each of the victims as part of the settlement, said Anderson said, who also praised the mediation process that led to the agreement. He said George was active in reaching the settlement.

"He has demonstrated his commitment to healing these survivors," Anderson said.

Barbara Blaine, president and founder of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, sharply criticized the church but praising the victims for insisting "that secret church documents about these pedophile priests be made public."

"These courageous victims are the ones who deserve praise today," she said in a written statement. But she said the money would not "magically restore the shattered trust, stolen childhoods and devastated psyches of dozens of victims of predatory priests and complicit bishops."

The settlement brings to $65 million the total paid by the archdiocese over three decades to settle about 250 claims, officials said. They said mediation continues in about two dozen more cases.


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