4 Feb 2011

Chicago Cardinal says US bishops gave priority to canon law protection of priests instead of protecting and caring for victims

The Chicago Tribune - January 22, 2011

Cardinal Francis George reflects on issues

Archbishop talks about health care, sexual abuse crisis

By Manya A. Brachear, Tribune reporter

After wrapping up a three-year term as president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in November and celebrating his 74th birthday earlier this month, Cardinal Francis George sat down with Tribune religion reporter Manya Brachear to share his perspective on politics, recent news in the sexual abuse crisis and even the NFC Championship. The following are excerpts from that conversation.

Q: As president of the bishops conference, you were quite outspoken about health care reform. Did this week's symbolic repeal of the measure please or dismay you?

A: [The repeal] is a platform for discussing, how do we go forward? If it serves that purpose of perfecting the bill, good. Two moral points we're concerned about remain: Everybody should be taken care of, and nobody should be killed.

For 100 years the bishops of the United States said we should have universal health care. This is a right in well-developed countries. … The present health care bill goes a long way in meeting that goal.

Q: Explain the letter that surfaced this week from the Vatican to the Irish bishops in 1997 instructing them to avoid involving civil authorities in sex abuse cases. Did you ever receive that kind of letter or did the Chicago archdiocese?

A: I never saw a letter like that.

That was the opinion, I know, of the prefect of the Congregation for Clergy at that time. They protected priests to a great extent. It's why the cases were switched ... to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. When we went over to argue our case [for zero tolerance in 2002], they had already lost authority over the cases. (George later added that American bishops lobbied then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger to take over the cases. He, of course, later became pope.)

Q: You spent the last three years leading America's bishops. Do you feel they should be held accountable for mishandling the sexual abuse crisis or were their hands tied by canon law?

A: I think they were concerned about being sure that the priest had the rights that are given him in canon law. … But it made it so difficult at times to move in on a priest, remove him, or even to punish him.

They should've recognized immediately, first, right away: How do we protect victims? How do we take care of victims? And that didn't seem to be uppermost in their decision-making. Maybe it was also because they didn't recognize how deep the hurt is. It makes a big difference when you talk to victims and you see what happens and you see the concern they have for others that this will never happen again. Had they talked to everybody in these situations, I think they would have found a different way to try to address it.

Q: Whom do you pick to win Sunday's game: Bears or Packers?

A: Of course the Bears! Good heavens! It all depends on the defense.

This article was found at:



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  1. Chicago archdiocese hid decades of child sex abuse

    By Associated Press, January 20, 2014

    CHICAGO — After a 13-year-old boy reported in 1979 that a priest raped him and threatened him at gunpoint to keep quiet, the Archdiocese of Chicago assured the boy’s parents that although the cleric avoided prosecution, he would receive treatment and have no further contact with minors.

    But the Rev. William Cloutier, who already had been accused of molesting other children, was returned to ministry a year later and was accused of more abuse before he resigned in 1993, two years after the boy’s parents filed a lawsuit. Officials took no action against Cloutier over his earliest transgressions because he “sounded repentant,” according to internal archdiocese documents released Tuesday that show how the archdiocese tried to contain a mounting scandal over child sexual abuse.

    For decades, those at the highest levels of the nation’s third-largest archdiocese moved accused priests from parish to parish while hiding the clerics’ histories from the public. The documents, released through settlements between attorneys for the archdiocese and victims, describe how the late Cardinals John Cody and Cardinal Joseph Bernardin often approved the reassignments. The archdiocese removed some priests from ministry, but often years or decades after the clergy were known to have molested children.

    While disturbing stories of clergy sexual abuse have wrenched the Roman Catholic Church across the globe, the newly released documents offer the broadest look yet into how one of its largest and most prominent American dioceses responded to the scandal.

    The documents, posted online Tuesday, cover only 30 of the at least 65 clergy for whom the archdiocese says it has substantiated claims of child abuse. Vatican documents related to the 30 cases were not included, under the negotiated terms of the disclosure.

    The records also didn’t include the files of former priest Daniel McCormack, who pleaded guilty in 2007 to abusing five children and whose case prompted an apology from Cardinal Francis George and an internal investigation of how the archdiocese responds to abuse claims.

    But the more than 6,000 pages include internal communications between church officials, disturbing testimony about specific abuses, meeting schedules where allegations were discussed, and letters from anguished parishioners. The names of victims, and details considered private under mental health laws were redacted.

    In a letter distributed to parishes last week, Cardinal George apologized to victims and Catholics, and said the archdiocese agreed to turn over the records in an attempt to help the victims heal.

    The archdiocese released a statement Tuesday saying it knows it “made some decisions decades ago that are now difficult to justify” and that society has evolved in how it deals with abuse.

    “The Church and its leaders have acknowledged repeatedly that they wished they had done more and done it sooner, but now are working hard to regain trust, to reach out to victims and their families, and to make certain that all children and youth are protected,” the statement read.

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  2. Officials in the archdiocese said most of the abuse detailed in the files released Tuesday occurred before 1988, none after 1996, and that all these cases ultimately were reported to authorities.

    But victims’ lawyers argue many of the allegations surfaced after George assumed control of the archdiocese in 1997, and some of the documents relate to how the church handled the cases more recently.

    “The issue is not when the abuse happened; the issue is what they did once it was reported,” said Chicago attorney Marc Pearlman, who has represented about 200 victims of clergy abuse in the Chicago area.

    When a young woman reported in 1970 that she’d been abused as a teen, for example, Cody assured the priest that the “whole matter has been forgotten” because “no good can come of trying to prove or disprove the allegations.”

    Accused priests often were quietly sent away for a time for treatment or training programs, the documents show. When the accused clerics returned, officials often assigned them to new parishes and asked other priests to monitor them around children.

    In one 1989 letter to Bernardin, the vicar for priests worries about parishioners discovering the record of the Rev. Vincent E. McCaffrey, who was moved four times because of abuse allegations.

    “Unfortunately, one of the key parishioners ... received an anonymous phone call which made reference by name to Vince and alleged misconduct on his part with young boys,” wrote vicar for priests, the Rev. Raymond Goedert. “We all agreed that the best thing would be for Vince to move. We don’t know if the anonymous caller will strike again.”

    When the archdiocese tried to force accused clergy into treatment or isolate them at church retreats, some of the priests refused, or ignored orders by church administrators to stay away from children.

    Church officials worried about losing parishioners and “potential priests” over abuse scandals. “This question I believe is going to get stickier and stickier,” Patrick O’Malley, then-vicar for priests, wrote in a 1992 letter.

    Then, in 2002, a national scandal about dioceses’ failures to stop abusers consumed the American church. U.S. bishops nationwide adopted a toughened disciplinary policy and pledged to remove all guilty priests from church jobs in their dioceses.

    But for many victims, it was too little and too late.

    “Where was the church for the victims of this sick, demented, twisted pedophile?” one man wrote in a 2002 letter to George about abuse at the hands of the Rev. Norbert Maday, who was imprisoned in Wisconsin after a 1994 conviction for molesting two boys. “Why wasn’t the church looking out for us? We were children, for God’s sake.”

    Associated Press reporters Jason Keyser, Don Babwin and Michael Tarm contributed.


  3. Chicago Priests Raped and Pillaged for 50 Years

    by Barbie Latza Nadeau, The Daily Beast November 6, 2014

    In a disturbing document dump outlining lurid clerical abuse and a trail of coverups, retiring Cardinal Francis George tries to clear his conscience.

    Some of the accusations against perverted priests are handwritten letters penned by worried mothers. Others are emails sent decades after the abuses occurred. There are letters so old the mimeographed typewriting is smudged and difficult to read. There are emails so recent, they call into question just how much of the clerical abuse is still going on. In all, more than 15,000 pages from the secret archives of the Chicago Archdiocese’s Office for Child Abuse Investigations and Review have been released on the Chicago Archdiocese website relating to hundreds of lurid sexual-abuse crimes by 36 perverted priests dating back to the 1950s. The most recent documents are only a year old.

    The disturbing document dump was released Thursday as the retiring Cardinal Francis George prepares to leave the post he has held since 1997. They follow a similar gesture last January when the archdiocese released 6,000 pages of documents pertaining to 30 pedophilic priests as part of a legal settlement brokered by Chicago attorney Jeff Anderson. The Chicago Archdiocese has paid more than $130 million in abuse-victim settlements. “We cannot change the past but we hope we can rebuild trust through honest and open dialogue,” George said in a statement on the eve of the document release. “Child abuse is a crime and a sin.”

    While the document trove is impressive, many of the names and an abundance of detail has been blackened out, no doubt for privacy issues. Records on two of Chicago’s most notorious pedophile priests were not released because of ongoing legal action. The cases involving Daniel McCormack, who is accused of molesting three young boys, including an 8-year-old he allegedly molested on Christmas Eve, and Edward Maloney are not included because McCormack’s records have been sealed by a judge as part of his admission; Maloney is appealing his laicization with the Vatican in Rome.

    The allegations include accusations of priests plying young victims with alcohol and cigarettes, of fondling, masturbating, and performing oral sex on minors, and a strong current of denial and well-documented coverup by the church that can be traced all the way to Rome.

    Take the case of Father Gregory Miller, whose 275-page dossier is filled with congratulatory letters of advancement within the archdiocese. But his file is also dotted with frequent warnings of misconduct. On Page 105 of the Miller dossier (PDF), one brief summary of an allegation states, “while in Fr. Miller’s quarters in the rectory, he instructed XX to remove his clothes; Fr. Miller also removed his clothes and had an erection; Fr. Miller took his hand and rubbed XX’s leg two times, then placed his hand on XX’s stomach and began to move his hand down to XX’s genital area” the rest of the complaint has been blocked by the diocese.

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  4. A few years later Millers assignment as a parish priest was renewed. Despite an “acknowledgement of misconduct policies” added to the priest’s record in 2004, followed by a “pastoral intervention plan” in 2005, Miller’s record shows the addition, in 2007, of another congratulatory letter in which the clearly improper priest is appointed to serve a second term as pastor of Saint Bernadette in Evergreen Park for six more years. “The support you have received for this reappointment is an indication of the fine pastoral leadership you have given the people of Saint Bernadette as you have proclaimed the Gospel there these past six years,” the letter from Cardinal Francis George states, followed by a personal note. “Gary, it is my hope that this will be a time of personal renewal for you as you continue your priestly service to the people who have been entrusted in your care,” the cardinal writes.

    In 2012, a new complainant wrote an email to Leah McCluskey of the Chicago Archdiocese’s abuse committee, stating: “To whom, After having watched, and been wrenched by the Jerry Sandusky/Penn State story… I have a story to tell,” the unnamed accuser writes. “It goes back to 1972-73 at a parish in South Byron.”

    Further documents show that the archdiocese did investigate the email, while placing Miller on watch yet again, telling him not to be alone with minors. Records state that the victim, clearly bolstered by the Sandusky case, was 13 at the time of Miller’s abuse. In a file memo in 2012, McCluskey states that when she confronted Miller, he said he did not know the young man making the claims, but when pressed with further details, McCluskey writes, “Fr. Miller responded by saying that he would like to ‘reserve comment at this time.’”

    According to the memo, Miller then asked what the statute of limitations in Illinois was and to define what the allegations meant. “Fr. Miller asked for a definition of sexual abuse. I told Fr. Miller that sexual abuse does not have to mean penetration and that it may be sexual touching over and/or under clothing of the victim and/or any touch that is unwanted by the victim. I added that sexual abuse may also be showing or viewing pornographic images (to/with a victim).”

    More disturbing still, despite what were clearly repeat allegations, the archdiocese’s vicar general, John Canary, wrote the errant priest to tell him that he was not to be alone with anyone under age 18, seemingly apologizing for the trouble. “This is not a judgment of guilt, nor is it a suspension of any other canonical penalty,” Canary wrote. “Every effort will be made to avoid unnecessary publicity. Should information about this become known, we will work to protect your reputation and your right to privacy.”

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  5. Reading through the documents is frustrating at times because full pages are blackened out, like the memos concerning Father William Lupo, a priest who faced multiple allegations, including “exposure of full naked body in bed to 14 year old girl in rectory and of partial nakedness to two other teen-age girls in/around his bedroom shower; passionate kissing and hugging over approximately six years with at least 3 teenage girls.”

    The church was so well-informed on Lupo’s sins they even sent a priestly spy, Father Jerome Jiordan, who wrote his surveillance report after spending time clearly spying on the priest (PDF). “As far as the parishioners know, I’m a house guest who finds it convenient to stay here,” he wrote in a memo to the Chicago diocese. “I have a room at the foot of the stairs to the pastor’s quarters and therefore I am in a position to know whether there are any visitors to his rooms.”

    Some priests, like Father Joseph Savage (PDF), apparently not only raped children, they also pillaged Episcopalian churches in the area. The documents in his lengthy dossier clearly point to suspicion that he often brought young teenage boys into churches to steal precious relics. Yet he was allowed to keep his collar.

    The revelations in the Chicago document trove show the church was clearly involved in the coverup and proliferation of pedophile abuse by not removing the abusers, which is something victims’ groups have always known. David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, known as SNAP, says the latest revelations prove his group’s point. “This information could and should have been revealed years ago,” he said. “Lives could have been saved. Crimes could have been prevented. Families could have been preserved.” Instead, Clohessy accuses Cardinal George and dozens of his clerical colleagues of opting to put their own reputations first. “It’s as if Catholic officials thought, for years, that ‘Our job is to protect ourselves from lawsuits. So we’ll yank these dangerous men from parishes. But that’s all we’ll do. And whoever they molest next, that’s not our concern.’”

    The latest documents are apparently endorsed by Pope Francis, who assigned a special child-abuse SWAT team almost a year ago with an eye toward greater transparency. John O’Malley, special counsel to Cardinal George on misconduct issues, told the Associated Press, “Cardinal George wanted it finished on his watch.” The victims understandably wish he would have “finished it” when he started almost 20 years ago, not on his way out.