Cardinal Accused of Being Dishonest about Sex Abuse in Clergy

September 9, 2008

(WBBM) - A new book about Catholics in America quotes everyone from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to actor Susan Sarandon and author Frank McCourt on how they view their faith. It also includes critical comments from Illinois Supreme Court Justice who sat on a national priest sex abuse watchdog panel.

WBBM's Bernie Tafoya reports.

In the book, Being Catholic Now by author Kerry Kennedy, Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke takes Chicago Roman Catholic Archbishop Francis Cardinal George to task for trying to split hairs on the priest sex abuse issue, specifically about how he portrayed a guest in his official residence. The guest, from Delaware, had admitted sexually abusing children, abuse that occurred before he became a priest.

Cardinal George said at the time that no priest in ministry in Chicago had substantiated claims of abuse against minors. He says now that was a true statement. Fr. Kenneth Martin had only been visiting and was not in ministry in Chicago.

Justice Burke says she was furious over what she calls the cardinal's casual attitude about letting Fr. Martin stay with him. Burke says she found the cardinal's lack of honesty difficult to deal with.

"I found the cardinal's lack of honesty really difficult to deal with," Burke said in the book. "How do I go on to trust what he says to me? This continues to the present day. He and his brother bishops have been in denial all along."

Burke tells the Chicago Tribune that, since that interview for the book a year ago, Cardinal George has taken steps in the right direction to deal with the priest sex abuse issue.

George said in an e-mail that to the Boston Globe he allowed an accused Delaware priest to stay in his residence during a visit to Chicago, and that "To the best of my knowledge, I have been honest in every public and private statement I have made about the sexual abuse issue."

"I stated publicly that there was no priest in ministry in Chicago who had against him a substantiated claim of sexual abuse of a minor," he said. "That statement was true when I made it and it is true now," George said in the e-mail.

The priest from Delaware, he said, "was never in ministry here. He was someone I had known for several years who was coming to Chicago for a few days on business. At the time, I was unaware of all the details of his situation; but since, he let me know that a question had been raised about his past. I invited him to stay in my house rather than a parish when he came to Chicago while his own diocese was deciding whether or not he should be in ministry."

Kennedy is the daughter of the late Sen. Robert Kennedy and his wife, Ethel.


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