Take These Steps to Protect Children

Chicago Daily Herald
August 18, 2008

Nothing ever will heal the scars of those who were raped and molested by their Catholic priests when they were children.

No apology, no amount of money, ever will be enough.

Robert Brancato was violated by both a priest and a principal at St. Joseph the Worker Church and school in Wheeling when he was 13 years old. As he put it last week, "It's become part of my DNA. You never get over it."

Brancato spoke as Cardinal Francis George gathered the media together to announce the Archdiocese of Chicago had agreed to pay $12.7 million to Brancato and 15 other men and women who were sexually abused by their spiritual counselors when they were children. George also apologized. And he took the rare step of releasing to the public a 307-page deposition describing the steps the church hierarchy has taken to try to respond to complaints of sexual abuse. Lawyers say the publishing of the deposition was only the second of its kind. Another such document was released during a clergy abuse trial in California.

The compensation, the genuine-sounding apology and the release of the deposition are positive,

significant steps taken by George toward trying to make amends as much as is possible.

Still, there are many more steps George and other cardinals across the country must take.

This latest settlement in the Chicago archdiocese means it now has spent $65 million over 30 years resolving 250 claims of sexual abuse. Archdiocese officials said mediation continues in about two dozen more cases.

After all the reports of abuse and the breadth and depth of this scandal nationwide, if there is any credible evidence of a priest still working in a parish or living near children, George and his peers should remove the suspects and get them, and those already found to have abused, away from any and all children. George should release the names and addresses of those priests who have been found to have been pedophiles. There's enough evidence that child sex abusers are difficult to cure that church officials should be forthcoming with this information for the sake of the children and their parents living near these offenders. Their safety is paramount.

George should continue to be as transparent as possible throughout the process of resolving these other claims.

And he and his peers need to listen and act upon the recommendations of the people who serve on their review boards. George admitted this week he did not remove a pedophile priest, contrary to the advice and urging of his panelists. "I wish that I had followed it with all my heart," The Associated Press quoted George as saying.

Follow your heart, Cardinal George. Be open. Do all you can think of to try to help the victims of this tragedy. Protect the children.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.