Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Documents Give Details on Chicago Priest Abuse Online Posting the Result of 8 Years of Talks between Archdiocese, Victims

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Documents Give Details on Chicago Priest Abuse Online Posting the Result of 8 Years of Talks between Archdiocese, Victims

Article excerpt

Thousands of documents detailing the Archdiocese of Chicago's often-halting response to sexual abuse allegations against 30 priests were posted online Tuesday after eight years of negotiations between victim advocates and Roman Catholic Church officials.

Most of the abuse was alleged to have taken place years ago, about half of the accused priests are dead, and many of the victims have already been given financial settlements from the archdiocese. But the victims have pressed for publication of the files, arguing that the documents will provide an important form of reckoning, chronicling what church officials did -- and did not do -- when they learned of accusations that priests had molested minors.

"There can't be safety in the future unless practices that were so dangerous in the past are fully known," said Jeff Anderson, a lawyer representing many victims. "It really is a painful and sorrowful and, frankly, ugly portrait of what has been. But from that, there is hope that it will not be repeated, and to that end, it brings comfort to survivors."

The documents are certain to place an uncomfortable spotlight on Cardinal Francis E. George, the archbishop of Chicago, who is one of the leading intellectuals in the U.S. church hierarchy and who was president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops from 2007 to 2010, when many dioceses were grappling with the abuse crisis. Although the abuse occurred before Cardinal George became archbishop, many victims first came forward after his arrival. Some of the files concern cases in which Cardinal George's response has been questioned, including that of the Rev. Joseph R. Bennett, whose disciplinary proceeding the cardinal briefly delayed, and the Rev. Norbert J. Maday, whose prison sentence the cardinal sought to reduce.

"It would be a great fulfillment of the millennium spirit to see your captive heart set free," Cardinal George wrote to the incarcerated Maday in 2000. But the cardinal later changed his mind. In 2007, after several more people had come forward to say they had been abused by Maday, the cardinal wrote to a parole commission, saying he was seeking to defrock the priest.

The documents also show Cardinal George repeatedly offering to meet with victims of abuse and apologizing; in 2005, he wrote to a victim, "We have tried to apologize to all those who are suffering because of the failure on the part of some bishops to supervise priests adequately."

On Tuesday, just before lawyers for the victims held a news conference to discuss the documents, the Archdiocese of Chicago posted on its website a statement again apologizing for abuse by priests and declaring, "The Archdiocese acknowledges that its leaders made some decisions decades ago that are now difficult to justify. We realize the information included in these documents is upsetting," the statement said. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.