Why critics distrust the archdiocese process

What makes an allegation of sexual abuse against a priest credible is the heart of the disagreement between the Chicago Archdiocese and victims' advocates.

Victims' attorney Jeff Anderson and officials with the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, a victims' advocacy group, have called on newly installed Archbishop Blase Cupich to release files on all priests who've ever been accused of sexual abuse - whether archdiocese officials have deemed those allegations to be credible.

"It's their own review board, their own standards, their own protocols and policies monitored by their own people," Anderson said in explaining his distrust of the process.

Mike Hoffman, who was a victim of former priest Robert Mayer at a Lake Forest parish in the late 1970s, said he was pleased with the process of the review board, which determined his allegations were substantiated not long after he came forward in August 2006 after he read a newspaper article about a suit by classmates of his. The archdiocese reached a financial settlement and agreed to pay for three years of counseling sessions.

"I thought that's pretty good for a large institution to come to that determination in 4½ months," said Hoffman, who remains a practicing Catholic and who worked with the archdiocese to create a healing garden for victims.

But Mayer's record of sexual assault of minors was well-established. He was indicted on a charge of aggravated criminal sexual abuse in December 1991, convicted a year later and sentenced to three years in prison.

One victim who spoke with the Daily Herald but wanted to remain anonymous said she was fondled by a priest in 1975 when he was principal of a Chicago high school, but the review board determined the conduct was only inappropriate behavior - not sexual abuse.

The woman said she never got a formal explanation from the archdiocese about the review board's determination. She says she is upset the priest's name isn't included on the archdiocese's website listing of priests who officials have determined abused children.

"For them to come forward with these names and say, 'This is everything,' it's just not true," said the woman, who lives in Chicago.

Jan Slattery, director of the archdiocese's Office for the Protection of Children and Youth, said the review board "simply did not find reason to believe he had abused her," though she declined to respond to specific allegations. The priest, now retired, remains in limited ministry.

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