Gets 5 Years for Sex Abuse
Ex-Priest Taken into Custody Immediately after Hearing
CBS 2's Kristyn Hartman and Dorothy Tucker and the Associated Press contributed to this report.
CBS 2 Chicago
July 2, 2007
CHICAGO (CBS) -- Former Chicago priest Daniel McCormack said nothing to reporters Monday morning as he entered the Cook County Courthouse at 26th and California. But he did plead guilty to five counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse and was immediately placed into custody after being sentenced to five years in prison.
When asked by the judge if he would like to make a statement to the court, McCormack declined.
McCormack's guilty plea means his young victims won't have to take the stand. It also means the Chicago Archdiocese won't have to testify about how it embarassingly dragged its feet and mismanaged the case, as CBS 2's Dorothy Tucker reports.
Father Dan McCormack walked into the criminal courts building Monday morning, but it'll be a long time before he walks out. He agreed to plead guilty to sexually abusing five boys -- the youngest only eight, the oldest eleven.
"He got the children in areas where they were alone and basically fondled the genitals of the boys," said Kathleen Muldoon, assistant state's attorney.
Prosecutors say the boys were fondled inside the rectory at St. AgathaCatholic Church where he served as parish priest. They say the 38-year-old could have done the same thing in a classroom at our Lady of the Westside Presentation School's two campuses, where McCormack taught algebra and coached basketball. Relatives of the victims who chose not to say their names, said they are glad it's over but say five years wasn't enough for McCormack.
The five-year sentence he received was not enough to satisfy McCormack's critics either.
Barbara Blaine, President of the Survivor's Network of those Abused by Priests said, "It just seems whenever a priest is involved in a crime there seems to be a different standard. If a layman who was a teacher had abused and admitted to abusing five children ... my suspicion is the sentence would be longer."
Tony Jannotta of the Coalition of Concerned Catholics said someone should have done something sooner to stop McCormack.
"Why does it take so long for the leadership of an archdiocese or a diocese to identify a priest? I don't know the answers to those things. Is it hiding information or generally bad administration? Should Cardinal George step down? That's his decision," Jannotta said.
McCormack's sentence didn't sit too well with parishioners at his former church.
"He's not going to do five years. He'll probably do two maybe one -- go to a special facility for priests to get some kind of treatment and be right back out," said Shekeyah Yehuda, St. Agatha parishioner. "We know that, everybody knows that."
McCormack was accused of abusing the boys between 2001 and 2006. Today, the victims are teenagers. Some victims were members of the basketball team; others were friends of boys who attended the school, according to prosecutors. Attorney Marc Pearlman represents two of them.
"This is a very important day for them in terms of getting some closure," he said. "On the other hand this is just the beginning of their healing.The children that he has abused have a life sentence of dealing with the struggles that are going to go along with having been abused by an adult. And that is truly a life process to try to deal with that."
Barbara Westrick is the former principal of Presentation. She was fired last month and she believes it's because she's the one who blew the whistle on Father McCormack. She also believes there are more victims.
"There are 25 to 30 more children out there I suspect have been abused by that man," Westrick said. "But they are not willing to tell their story because they are ashamed."
Westrick blames Cardinal Franicis George for allowing McCormack to remain at the school even after early allegations. She's among those calling for a criminal investigation against the archdiocese.
"They should be held accountable and punished like anyone else," said Sandy Stilling-Seehausen of the group Voice of the Faithful, an organization formed in response to the crisis in the Archdiocese.
When some of the cases came to light, it's alleged another priest had already been monitoring McCormack because of other abuse accusations.
Back in May, Francis Cardinal George said one of his biggest regrets was not having acted faster in the McCormack case.
The year before he said, "Every time one hears of this, you're devastated. This is a cancer that eats away at all of us because in the church we're connected and in the society we're connected."
Now that McCormack was sentenced, the Archdiocese officially started the process to remove him from the priesthood.
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