Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

The Long, Sad Record

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

The Long, Sad Record

Article excerpt


In January, Cardinal Francis George prepared Chicago Catholics for a release of documents detailing the archdiocese's mishandling of clergy accused of sexually abusing minors. An archdiocesan statement described the documents as "upsetting" and "painful to read." The decisions church officials made decades ago "are now difficult to justify" but were based on "the prevailing knowledge at the time," it said.

George's letter Specifically addressed the case Daniel McCormack, a priest that the cardinal would eventually defrock, but whom he allowed to stay in ministry--against the advice of his review board--for months after allegations against McCormack surfaced. George only removed him after McCormack's second arrest in 2006.

"The response, in retrospect, was not always adequate to all the facts, but a mistake is not a cover up," George wrote.


Last fall, as details emerged about how the St. Paul-Minneapolis archdiocese mishandled cases of clergy sexually abusing of minors, Archbishop John Nienstedt acknowledged mistakes: "Our policies and procedures may not have been uniformly followed"

In December, he apologized to Catholics, saying that when he was named archbishop seven years ago, he had been told that clergy sex abuse was no longer an issue. "Unfortunately, I believed that and so my biggest apology today ... is to say I overlooked this. I should have investigated it more than I did."


Federal prosecutors announced they would investigate how the Los Angeles archdiocese had handled cases of clergy sexually abusing minors. Cardinal Roger Mahony reacted: "We have said repeatedly that ... our understanding of this problem and the way it's dealt with today evolved, and that in those years ago, decades ago, people didn't realize how serious this was, and so, rather than pulling people out of ministry directly and fully, they were moved."


In July, just as the case of serial child molester Boston priest John Geoghan was becoming public, Cardinal Bernard Law wrote in his archdiocesan newspaper about a policy he had instituted in 1993 to ensure that no priest who had abused a child was assigned to a job that would put children at risk. He acknowledged that the policy had not worked perfectly.

"I only wish that that the knowledge we have today had been available to us earlier." The church, he wrote, "has been on a learning curve. We have learned, and we will continue to learn." Eighteen months later, Law would resign as archbishop of Boston.


As a score of lawsuits were filled in several states against Catholic dioceses for the mishandling of clergy accused of sexually abusing minors, Bishop John Kinney of Bismarck, N. …

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