The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago (Image credit: wcedward/Flickr)
Secret church documents released on Tuesday after a court settlement reveal how the third-largest Roman Catholic archdiocese in the United States shuffled priests accused of child abuse from parish to parish and failed to notify police of allegations.
Most of the 30 priests tied to allegations in the documents were not prosecuted, according to The Chicago Tribune.
The clergymen were protected by Roman Catholic Church officials who believed they could be cured through counseling or by what the Tribune calls “bishops blinded by a belief in second chances and forgiveness.”
“That’s in the past, we’re hoping,” Cardinal Francis George said to the Tribune in an interview on Sunday.
Some of the allegations surfaced during George’s tenure and in a 2008 deposition in a civil lawsuit he admitted to mishandling three cases under his watch.
George admitted to attempting to get an early release from prison for Norbert Maday, a convicted child molester, mishandling allegations against Rev. Joseph Bennett and failing to promptly remove Daniel McCormack, also a convicted child molester.
In August 2005, McCormack was reportedly taken into custody after a 10-year-old boy said the priest fondled him. Police released McCormack after a call from an archdiocese official, even though they said the boy’s story was credible.
Documents related to the McCormack case are not included in Tuesday’s public release as they were sealed by a judge for pending litigation. Documents related to the cases of Maday and Bennett, however, do appear in the release.
Bennett was accused of molesting two women between 1967 and 1973 at St. John de la Salle in Chicago, but at least a dozen additional allegations surfaced after he was removed from ministry.
“The Catholic Church has been less than truthful,” said Susan Albrecht, 56, the older of the two sisters who reported the abuse. “They have downright lied in some instances. … We had relatives that didn’t even believe us.”
The cases led to some reforms in the archdiocese, and the situation appears to be considerably better than it was in the past.
Under Cardinal John Cody, now deceased, sexual abuse allegations were not even dealt with.
In one letter dated July 16, 1970, Cody, then Archbishop of Chicago, told Rev. Raymond Skriba that he shouldn’t worry about the allegations of sexual misconduct reported by a girl at St. Walter Catholic Church.
“I feel that this whole matter should be forgotten by you as it has been forgotten by me,” Cody wrote. “No good can come of trying to prove or disprove the allegations, and I think that you will understand this.”
Skriba was shuffled to another parish and eventually ended up at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Round Lake, Illinois. At that church, a woman said that Skriba, who died earlier this month, molested her when she was 15.
The newly released documents detail 30 out of over 65 priests in the Chicago Archdiocese that have had substantiated child abuse allegations leveled against them.
Of the 30 priests accused of child abuse, 14 have died and all but two are no longer priests and none are still active in ministry.
The Tribune reports that a lawyer for the archdiocese said that 95 percent of the incidents mentioned in the documents took place before 1988 and none took place after 1996.
Over $100 million has been paid to victims over the past 25 years, paid for by recent bond issues and the sale of land.
On a Jan. 16 morning Mass in the Vatican, Pope Francis admitted that the abuse scandals had “cost us a lot of money, but (paying damages) is only right.”
Francis said that bishops, priests and lay people were responsible for what he called the “shame of the Church.”
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