Chicago Catholics to See Letter on Abuse This Sunday
By Mary Ann Ahern
The NBC Chicago
January 7, 2014
Next week the Chicago Archdiocese will release the names and details of 30 priests involved in sexual misconduct, and the information will grace the bulletins for thousands of Catholics this weekend. The disclosures are part of a settlement agreement ongoing for years. The church notes that most of these cases are from 20 years ago.
Cardinal Francis George has written a letter to all priests under his supervision, and requested that his letter be published in this Sunday’s parish bulletins, hoping to get in front of what he explains will be the “the actual records of these crimes.”
“It will be helpful, we pray, for some," George said. "But painful for many.”
The Cardinal’s letter is titled “Accountability and Transparency”. In it, he makes clear that so far as can be known there is no priest in public ministry known to have sexually abused a child.
But, the case that poses the most difficulty for Cardinal George is former priest Daniel McCormack.
The abuse allegations happened on Cardinal George’s watch, three years after the historic Dallas Charter when all of the Catholic Bishops agreed to zero tolerance – removing anyone from ministry accused of misconduct, but that did not happen in McCormack’s case.
In the Cardinal’s letter -- which will not be available until this Sunday -- George offers his version of what went wrong in the McCormack case and specifically Cardinal Joseph Bernardin.
Cardinal George says that McCormack “had been ordained by Cardinal Bernardin, who vetted his seminary record.”
After the initial accusations surfaced, it was revealed that there were multiple questions about McCormack’s behavior during his seminary years. George also points out that after he became a priest McCormack “had been elected by his peers to represent them” and served as a dean, a leader in re-organizing the west side parishes.
After McCormack’s first arrest in September 2005, George notes “I was told that the police had arrested him, questioned him … released him without charges.” George says the Archdiocese investigation “was hampered because the various offices involved did not consistently share what they knew with each other or with me.”
McCormack was arrested a second time, to which George notes “a number of incidents came forward that might have served as warning signals along the way, if people had been more wary.” At the same time, the Cardinal says “The response, in retrospect, was not always adequate to all the facts, but a mistake is not a cover up.”
George admits “it’s difficult to set the record straight.” And, “telling the truth does not create an excuse for failure.”
Parishioners have been wary to give to various Archdiocese financial campaigns in light of the millions spent on sex abuse settlements.
Cardinal George explains that the “funding of the sexual abuse settlements comes from a stream of revenue entirely separate from regular donations or investments.” He notes there has been the “sale of some of that underdeveloped property” as the source for these claims.
Cardinal George turns 77 next week and many expect he will retire in the next year to eighteen months. Church sources speculate this letter is his way of wrapping up a difficult chapter for his leadership.
Meanwhile, in a first, the United Nations will hold an historic hearing looking into the child abuse by Catholic priests and the Vatican is sending a delegation.
The hearing is the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in Geneva as it investigates child abuse and cover up allegations worldwide. The Vatican has said it only has control for children living in the Vatican city/state.
One of those who will be at the hearing is SNAP founder Barbara Blaine. Blaine says the hearing will be available on the web starting at 10a Geneva time on Thursday January 16th.