Archdiocese releases 15,000 pages of priest sex abuse files
The Archdiocese of Chicago released 15,000 pages of documents at 9 a.m. today that detail what it calls substantiated instances of child sex abuse by 36 priests going back decades as it moves to put the long-running scandal behind it.
The names of the priests, none of whom are currently active, have been on the archdiocese website, archchicago.org, for years, but not the details of the cases.
"As we said in January, we are committed to transparency with the people we serve," Cardinal Francis George said in a news release. "We cannot change the past but we hope we can rebuild trust through honest and open dialogue. 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 include information on at least a dozen priests who were assigned to parishes in the North and Northwest suburbs of Cook and Lake counties. In some cases, the instances of abuse took place at those parishes; in others, priests were assigned to parishes years after the abuse occurred.
The files represent about a quarter of the 352 abuse cases -- going back to the early 1950s -- that the archdiocese says are "substantiated" allegations of child sexual abuse.
The release of the files follows the archdiocese's earlier release of more than 6,000 pages of internal communications in January involving 30 priests accused of sexually abusing children. Those files were made available to the public pursuant to a 2006 mediation agreement with attorney Jeff Anderson, who has represented victims abused by priests.
But Anderson said the latest set of documents, unlike the first ones, are being released "without input or scrutiny" from him and members of his law firm. He said there was an expectation they would have been able to review the documents, but recent negotiations with archdiocese officials "stalled, then came to a halt."
"We are suspicious and skeptical," Anderson said.
The 36 priests about whom the archdiocese said documents will be provided are Alexander Baranowski, Richard Bartz, Leonard Bogdan, Peter Bowman, David Braun, Daniel Buck, Eugene Burns, John Calicott, Norman Czajka, Walter DeRoeck, Francis Dilla, Richard Fassbinder, James Flosi, Robert Friese, Jesus Garza, John Hefferan, James Hoder, Michael Hogan, Walter Huppenbauer, Robert Kealy, John Keehan, John Keough, Leonard Kmak, William Lupo, Robert McDonald, Peter McNamara, Gary Miller, Donald Mulsoff, James Ray, John Robinson, John Rohrich, Joseph Savage, Albert Tanghal, Richard Theisen, Joseph Thomas and Anthony Vader.
Ninety-two percent of the cases included in the documents occurred prior to 1988. Additionally, all of the priests involved are out of ministry and 14 are deceased, according to the news release.
Church officials have spent the better part of a year redacting in the files information they say could possibly harm victims. They said months ago they planned to release the additional documents before the end of the year, but the process was accelerated in September when Bishop Blase Cupich was announced as successor to Cardinal Francis George. Cupich will be installed as Chicago's next archbishop Nov. 18.
The documents reveal less this time than the original set of files from January. At that time, the thousands of pages made available included redacted victim statements, but officials say some victims told them there was still enough information contained in the files that it could lead to their identities being revealed.
As a result, the archdiocese instead included an abstract of each victim's story in the latest set of documents, detailing when and where abuse took place, and what the abuse consisted of, said John O'Malley, the archdiocese's special counsel for misconduct issues.
"If you think about it, people come forward having been abused by a priest did not do that with any idea that their story is going to show up one day on the Internet," O'Malley said in advance of the release. "It's a very, very upsetting, troubling thing."
Jan Slattery, the archdiocese's director of the Office for the Protection of Children and Youth, said while information about victims is limited, nothing has been changed that would "protect the abusers or the administrative actions of the church."
"It was a horrendous period in our church. And we stand by that. Nonetheless we've moved forward, contrary to what many, many groups have said. We have not sat still," said Slattery, noting extensive internal policies and procedures the archdiocese has implemented that it believes will prevent recurrences.
The archdiocese said that anyone who has been sexually abused by a priest, deacon, religious or lay employee should report it at www.archchicago.org/departments/protection/protection.shtm.
"We're hoping that the truth behind all of this, the transparency behind all of this, can eventually move us in this church and perhaps broader to the whole concept of healing and reconciliation," Slattery said.