Archdiocese agrees to pay $1.68 to $2.1 mil to settle sex abuse suit

By Francine Knowles
Chicago Sun-Times
March 26, 2014

Daniel McCormack in 2007

The Archdiocese of Chicago agreed to pay $1.68 million to $2.1 million to settle a lawsuit that alleged former priest and convicted sex offender Daniel McCormack sexually abused a former fifth grade student at Our Lady of the Westside School, the plaintiff’s attorney announced Wednesday.

The agreement settles a suit brought against the archdiocese and Cardinal Francis George in December, 2011.

The suit was filed by a male Chicago plaintiff, now 23, who chose to remain anonymous and is identified as John Doe.

It alleged that at various times in the 2000 to 2001 school year, McCormack “inappropriately sexually touched, hugged, rubbed and/or abused” the plaintiff and “maintained a sexually abusive relationship with Doe, under the guise of counseling” him.

It also alleged that the archdiocese was aware of McCormack’s past history of sexual misconduct stemming back to his time in a seminary but chose to place him in ministry service among youth.

McCormack served as pastor of St. Agatha Catholic Church and Our Lady of the Westside School from 2000 to 2006.

He was arrested in January, 2006. He was removed from the priesthood in November, 2007 and pleaded guilty that year to abusing five children while he was a parish priest at St. Agatha.

The suit alleges the plaintiff was abused at St. Agatha’s parish and Our Lady of the Westside School.

The plaintiff said in a Chicago Sun-Times interview, he’s pleased with the settlement, but stressed, “I don’t think money will actually be able to cover the pain and everything I’m going through and went through. It affected me going to school, going to church, almost everything about my life.”

He never told anyone about the abuse until after he saw media reports of McCormack being arrested and his mom approached him, the plaintiff said.

“She called me in a room. I was able to tell her that I actually knew about it from firsthand experience,” he shared.

While acknowledging efforts the archdiocese has taken over the past decade to try to prevent abuse, plaintiff attorney Mark Brown said more needs to be done.

“McCormack was arrested as recently as 2006,” he said. “While it is eight years ago, it’s not that long ago, and it [was] after they had [taken steps] to try to clean up this problem and it didn’t help. Their own guidelines still weren’t followed…They need to take this … as seriously as possible in all aspects and at all times.”

The settlement was achieved with the assistance of a mediator, archdiocese spokeswoman Susan Burritt said in an email statement.

“The abuse of any child is a crime and a sin,” she said. “The Archdiocese encourages anyone who has been sexually abused by a priest, deacon, religious, lay employee or volunteer to come forward.”

To date, the archdiocese has paid victims $118 million as part of settlement agreements for abuse that took place over the past 50 years, according to Burritt.



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