Church releases sex abuse files to put scandal behind it

Critics say move doesn't go far enough

  • Cardinal Francis George celebrates a Mass of Atonement and Hope last month at Holy Family Church in Chicago to promote healing for child and youth sexual abuse survivors, their families and the Catholic Church.

      Cardinal Francis George celebrates a Mass of Atonement and Hope last month at Holy Family Church in Chicago to promote healing for child and youth sexual abuse survivors, their families and the Catholic Church. Daniel White | Staff Photographer

 
 

The Archdiocese of Chicago released some 15,000 pages of documents Thursday that reveal details of child sex abuse by 36 priests, as it moves to put the long-running scandal behind it.

It's one of the final actions of Cardinal Francis George, who promised to release the documents before his impending retirement Nov. 18.

"We cannot change the past, but we hope we can rebuild trust through honest and open dialogue," George said in a news release. "Child abuse is a crime and a sin. The Archdiocese of Chicago is concerned first and foremost with bringing healing to abuse victims."

The documents show how in many cases priests accused of sexually abusing minors were assigned to limited ministry with restrictions and monitoring, but sometimes were given second and third chances to return to full public ministry.

The release of the files follows the archdiocese's release of more than 6,000 pages of documents in January involving 30 priests. Altogether, the files represent the cases of all the priests for which the archdiocese has "substantiated" allegations of child sexual abuse -- with the exception of two priests: Daniel McCormack and Edward Maloney, officials said.

In McCormack's case, files have been sealed as part of ongoing civil litigation -- though victims advocates say archdiocese lawyers asked a judge to have those documents sealed. Maloney's case is pending before church leaders.

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All the priests involved are out of public ministry, nine have been removed as priests, and 14 are dead. The cases go as far back as the 1950s, and 92 percent of the cases occurred before 1988, officials said.

About a dozen of the priests were assigned to parishes in the North and Northwest suburbs of Cook and Lake counties.

Instances of abuse took place at some of those parishes, but in other cases, priests were assigned to parishes years after the abuse occurred.

Barbara Blaine, president of the Chicago chapter of the Survivor's Network of those Abused by Priests, argued that the documents should have been released years ago and wants the church to come clean with information on other priests believed to have abused children, though they aren't listed on the archdiocese's website.

And she took exception with the contents of what was released, because of redactions.

"It's not really easy to follow whether they're talking about one victim, two victims or four victims. There's page after page with black boxes. It leaves a lot hidden," Blaine said.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Archdiocese officials say they included only abstracts of victim statements in many files to protect victims' identities.

Jeff Anderson, a prominent attorney who has represented victims in church sex abuse cases, helped negotiate the release of the first set of documents in January pursuant to a 2006 mediation agreement. He said he should have gotten the chance to review the latest set of documents and claims he was cut out of the process so George could "spin this in his last days, for the preservation of his legacy."

John O'Malley, the archdiocese's special counsel for misconduct issues, said Anderson wasn't involved in the review of the newest files because he doesn't represent victims involving those 36 priests.

"I'm disappointed because he's calling for the church to be open and transparent, and here we are, but I guess it's not good enough," O'Malley said. "I think it's a very fulsome sharing of the information around these matters."

To read the documents in full, visit docinfo.archchicago.org.

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