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updated: 3/15/2014 10:26 AM

Archdiocese: More documents on sex abuse will be released

Archdiocese of Chicago says it will release documents about misconduct by 35 priests

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  • Video: Archdiocese Addresses Abuse

  • John O'Malley, right, director of legal services for the Archdiocese of Chicago, discusses how the archdiocese has responded to priest sex abuse. Seated with him are Bishop Francis Kane, vicar general for the archdiocese, and Jan Slattery, director of the Office for the Protection of Children and Youth.

       John O'Malley, right, director of legal services for the Archdiocese of Chicago, discusses how the archdiocese has responded to priest sex abuse. Seated with him are Bishop Francis Kane, vicar general for the archdiocese, and Jan Slattery, director of the Office for the Protection of Children and Youth.
    Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • A graphic showing the rise and fall of reported allegations of abuse since the 1950s.

       A graphic showing the rise and fall of reported allegations of abuse since the 1950s.
    Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Bishop Francis J. Kane, auxiliary bishop of the Chicago Archdiocese, meeting with the editorial board.

       Bishop Francis J. Kane, auxiliary bishop of the Chicago Archdiocese, meeting with the editorial board.
    Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

 
 

Archdiocese of Chicago officials say they will release more documents later this year that detail instances of child sex abuse by 35 priests that go back decades.

The files represent about 25 percent of the 349 abuse cases -- going back to the early 1950s -- that the archdiocese says are "substantiated" allegations of child sexual abuse.

Information on the other 75 percent of the cases -- comprising some 6,000 pages of internal communications regarding 30 abusive priests -- was publicly released in January.

On Friday, archdiocese officials told the Daily Herald Editorial Board they will release the additional documents voluntarily and "in the name of transparency," once information has been redacted that could possibly harm the victims.

"We will do all that's possible that this (abuse) will never happen again," said Bishop Francis Kane, the archdiocese's vicar general. "I am horrified by the abuse that has occurred. I had the terrible responsibility of looking through so many of these files.

"The stories are stories that haunt you. They certainly haunt me. Child abuse is a crime, but it's also a sin. A terrible sin. I think I can speak for all of the good priests in the archdiocese who are embarrassed and outraged by what has occurred."

Officials hope to release the documents by the end of the calendar year but are uncertain when exactly.

Jan Slattery, the archdiocese's director of the Office for the Protection of Children and Youth, said the documents involve "a broad range of data and players."

The documents released earlier this year detail how church leaders from as early as the 1950s responded to allegations of abuse, and in many instances made efforts to conceal it.

John O'Malley, the archdiocese's lead attorney, said release of those documents was done pursuant to a 2006 mediation agreement with attorney Jeff Anderson, who has represented victims abused by priests.

Some 60 sex abuse cases have been settled as part of that agreement.

He said a number of cases are not yet settled, including about 10 cases involving former priest Daniel McCormack, who pleaded guilty in 2007 to abusing five children.

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

While officials say the settlement costs will be funded through the sale of archdiocesan-owned land, until the land can be sold the archdiocese has taken out loans in the form of bond sales.

Kane said no money brought in by weekly church collections or school fees has been or will be used to pay settlements.

"This is more than money. This is a healing," O'Malley said. "We have to get past this. We recognize the damage this has done. We recognize the credibility hole we're in when priests do this."

Added Kane, "We will do what we have to to take care of the people who are victims."

Archdiocese officials say that since 1991 and 1992 -- which they call watershed years in terms of the church's understanding of the scope of the crimes and the urgency in removing abusive priests from their posts -- they vastly have improved their policies and procedures in responding to allegations of sex abuse.

All archdiocesan employees undergo background checks and continual monitoring. All allegations, substantiated or not, are immediately reported to Cook and Lake county prosecutors.

At the same time, an internal review board works with an outside investigations firm to determine if allegations are credible, and whether a priest or employee should be removed from service.

Priests and other church personnel are subject to background checks and a code of conduct and must undergo training on sexual abuse prevention. Children in parochial schools and religious education classes are also given age-appropriate training on reporting behavior they are not comfortable with.

"We've learned the depth and the horror of child abuse and we've tried to continue to improve our response to it," Kane said.

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