Chicago Archdiocese's Sex-Abuse Tab: $15.8 Million in '08

By Margaret Ramirez
Chicago Tribune
March 5, 2009,0,1431725.story

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago paid more than $15.8 million in legal settlements related to sexual abuse last year, amounting to $80.2 million in claims for the decade, according to the annual report.

In a recent belt-tightening measure, all archdiocese employees were informed in January of a salary freeze as a result of the nation's economic downturn. The memo detailing the freeze said it would begin July 1 and end June 30, 2010.

In the archdiocese's financial report, director of financial services Kevin Marzalik said the abuse settlements were funded through property sales, loans and insurance. No current contributions to parishes and schools were used to pay settlements, he said.

Settlements paid last year include those involving former priest Daniel McCormack, who was convicted of abusing several minors at St. Agatha Church in Chicago. Additional lawsuits are pending.

The release of information about the archdiocese's financial status comes amid a faltering economy where churches and non-profits nationwide are fighting to stay afloat. In addition to costs related to sexual abuse, the Chicago archdiocese faces rising costs in financing Catholic schools and maintaining parish buildings.

The recent wage-freeze memo, obtained by the Tribune and dated Jan. 8, was addressed to "episcopal vicars, pastors, administrators, rectors, principals, pastoral center department directors and archdiocesan staff." The memo expressed "hope that a salary and wage freeze will reduce the necessity for additional actions."

The Chicago archdiocese, led by Cardinal Francis George, is the nation's third-largest with 2.3 million Catholics in Cook and Lake Counties, 363 parishes, more than 250 schools and about 7,800 full-time employees.

According to the report, the archdiocese received $1.09 billion in revenues from its parishes, schools and services in the 2008 fiscal year, which ended June 30. That marked a 2 percent increase over the previous year.

But the archdiocese's expenses exceeded that revenue by $25.8 million because of the rising costs of schools and charitable activities.



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