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posted: 1/21/2014 2:44 PM

Former priest assigned to Wheeling parish even after prior abuse claims

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A former priest who today remains in federal custody on a child pornography conviction was shuffled from one parish to another -- including St. Joseph the Worker Church in Wheeling -- before Archdiocese of Chicago officials acted to put an end to more than a decade of sexual abuse, according to a report made public Tuesday along with hundreds of church documents.

Vincent McCaffrey, who by his own admission abused 14 children while serving as a priest and labeled himself a sexual predator of boys, served as associate pastor at St. Joseph from 1982 to 1987, a position to which he was appointed even after accusations of child sexual abuse surfaced against him at two other parishes.

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According to reports, McCaffrey, now 61, molested as many as six children during his time at St. Joseph, with some of the abuse taking place in the church rectory. One child reported being abused at least 100 times over four years. Others reported at least 20 incidents of abuse each over multiple years.

A parish in Southwest suburban Hometown first raised red flags concerning McCaffrey as early as 1980 -- just two years after his ordination -- in a letter to Archdiocese officials concerning the priest's heavy drinking and "other" problems.

"I was not alone that something was amiss, but I had no concrete evidence," the Rev. James T. O'Connor wrote in a letter dated Nov. 25, 1980. "But how many priests have a young teenager come frequently to stay overnight in his room? Oh, the excuses were that he was helping him with his study."

Archdiocese documents released Tuesday also reference an event about that time in which Calumet City police investigated allegations McCaffrey attempted to molest a teenage boy while serving at a South suburban parish. No charges were ever brought, though McCaffrey's superiors were made aware. McCaffrey later was appointed to St. Joseph in Wheeling and then St. Josaphat in Chicago, where he faced abuse allegations at both stops.

McCaffrey resigned from the priesthood in 1993.

McCaffrey never was charged with sexually abusing minors, but in 2002 federal prosecutors indicted him on child pornography charges. Authorities said he was linked to a child pornography website based in New Zealand and thousands of images of child pornography were found in his possession.

During subsequent court hearings, which ultimately led to him receiving a 15-year prison sentence, McCaffrey admitted to molesting more than a dozen children while he was a priest.

To read all the documents regarding McCaffrey and 29 other accused priests, visit abusedinchicago.com.

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