‘Gut-Wrenching’ Chicago Clergy Abuse Documents Go Online
Thousands of pages of what were once secret church documents related to the way the Archdiocese of Chicago dealt with 30 priests who it believes abused children in the '70s, '80s and '90s are now online.
They give "an unprecedented and gut-wrenching look at how the Archdiocese of Chicago for years failed to protect children from abusive priests," writes the Chicago Tribune.
They also "provide new details and insights into how the nation's third-largest archdiocese quietly shuttled accused priests from parish to parish and failed to notify police of child abuse allegations," the Tribune adds.
The papers "cover only 30 of the at least 65 clergy for whom the archdiocese says it has substantiated claims of child abuse," The Associated Press says.
The Chicago Sun-Times says that "conspicuously absent in many of the more than 6,000 pages of documents were any signs that many of the allegations were ever immediately reported to law enforcement authorities for their investigation."
The Sun-Times also reports that among the revelations are that:
— "Vincent McCaffrey, who was ultimately sentenced to 20 years for child pornography, had been allowed by [Cardinal Joseph] Bernardin and [Cardinal John] Cody to remain in ministry and relocate to other parishes after allegations of abuse."
— "Bernardin agreed to appoint Robert Mayer as pastor of a Berwyn church after multiple allegations of sexual abuse were levied against him."
— "The late priest Robert Becker, who at times was accused of abusing in tandem with the late priest Kenneth Ruge, was moved following allegations. Among one of the multiple allegations was abuse against three children in one family."
Cardinal Cody died in 1982. Cardinal Bernadin, Cody's successor, died in 1996. Cardinal Francis George has led the Chicago archdiocese since April 1997.
Click here to go to the website of the Chicago law firm that has posted the materials. As we wrote last week, the archdiocese turned them over to the firm, which represents many of the victims. The victims' attorneys have previously said that none of the abuse detailed in the documents happened after 1996, the Tribune notes.
NPR's David Schaper is due to have more on Tuesday's All Things Considered.
The Vatican was named Wednesday in a lawsuit that claims the Holy See ultimately was responsible for covering up child sexual abuse by a now-imprisoned Chicago priest when church officials overlooked complaints about abuse and kept him in a position to continue molesting children.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago on behalf of a woman whose son was molested by Father Daniel McCormack, is an attempt to "hold those most responsible for the global problem and the problem in this community to account in a way they have never been," said St. Paul, Minn.-based attorney Jeff Anderson.
McCormack pleaded guilty in 2007 to abusing five children while he was parish priest at St. Agatha Catholic Church and a teacher at a Catholic school and was sentenced to five years in prison. In 2008, the Archdiocese of Chicago agreed to pay $12.6 million to 16 victims of sexual abuse by priests, including McCormack. As part of that settlement, Cardinal Francis George also agreed to release a lengthy deposition and apologize to the public and each victim.
Anderson said the Archdiocese also agreed to release documents involving priests who had been credibly accused of abuse, but "not one file has been effectively produced so we can produce it to the public" and believes it's because the Archdiocese is following orders from the Vatican. In 2009, a Cook County judge granted the Archdiocese a protective order keeping portions of files private.
Marc Pearlman, another attorney involved in Wednesday's lawsuit, said it's possible some plaintiffs would not have agreed to the 2008 settlement without the promise from the Archdiocese to release the files.
A spokeswoman for the Archdiocese would not comment on Anderson's contention because it was not named in the suit.
The Vatican's U.S. attorney, Jeffrey Lena, referred questions about the documents to the Archdiocese but released a statement saying the lawsuit "is without any merit." He said the victim mentioned in the lawsuit had already received payment from the Archdiocese and "released all further claims" as part of the 2008 settlement.
Anderson said the settlement with Archdiocese did not specifically name the Vatican as a settling party.
This is not the first time Anderson has sued the Vatican. He also named the Holy See in cases filed in Wisconsin and Oregon. The Vatican has argued it is shielded from lawsuits as a sovereign nation, although Wednesday's lawsuit claims McCormack was a "direct agent" of the Vatican because he helped raise money for Peter's Pence, an annual collection for the Vatican.
Lena said the suit "rehashes the same tired theories already rejected by U.S. courts ... and importantly, the Holy See had no factual involvement in this matter whatsoever."
The lawsuit seeks unspecified monetary damages but Anderson said its aim is "to require the Vatican to come clean" with the names of the offenders it knows about and the files kept on them.
"It is the men at the top who make decisions that require secrecy" from others in the Catholic Church, he said.
"Daniel McCormick is just one of many offenders who have been allowed to offend in secrecy," he said. "There won't be change at the bottom until there's change at the top."
Last month, the Vatican was served with court papers stemming from decades-old allegations of sexual abuse against a now-deceased priest at a Wisconsin school for the deaf. The lawsuit was filed last year in federal court on behalf of Terry Kohut, now of Chicago, claiming that Pope Benedict XVI and two other top Vatican officials knew about allegations of sexual abuse at St. John's School for the Deaf outside Milwaukee and called off internal punishment of the accused priest, the Rev. Lawrence Murphy.
Anderson also has a pending lawsuit against the Vatican in Oregon for a man who claims he was abused at his Catholic school in the 1960s.