Cardinal George’s letter says files on sex abuse by priests to be released

BY ART GOLAB Staff Reporter

January 7, 2014 10:02PM

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Updated: February 9, 2014 6:42AM

Details of sexual abuse by priests, along with information about church officials who may have covered up the abuse, will be turned over next week to attorneys suing the Archdiocese of Chicago and will be made public shortly afterward.

Cardinal Francis George announced the move in a letter to priests that will be printed in church bulletins this Sunday.

The church files, sought for nearly seven years by plaintiffs’ attorneys, will be handed over Jan. 15 under terms of a court settlement. But they will not become public for at least another week in order to remove victims’ information, according to Jeff Anderson, a St. Paul, Minn., attorney involved in the suit.

Anderson, who has reviewed the documents, said they contain “not just the histories of the offenders but those who made the choice to protect them . . . top officials current and past.” The files contain information on cases involving 30 priests, most of them already named on an archdiocese website listing priests with substantiated allegations against them.

“Publishing for all to read the actual records of these crimes raises transparency to a new level,” George wrote in his letter. “It will be helpful, we pray, for some, but painful for many.”

The cardinal also listed some points he said would “mitigate the charge of Archdiocesan neglect” in the handling of ex-priest Daniel McCormack, who was convicted of abuse allegations that occurred on George’s watch.

Cardinal George noted that McCormack “had been ordained by Cardinal Bernardin, who vetted his seminary record,” and that when George took over, McCormack had already been “appointed to a seminary faculty, a position of trust.”

The response to allegations against McCormack, “in retrospect, was not always adequate to all the facts, but a mistake is not a cover up,” the cardinal wrote.

“Cardinal George is playing the blame game and its really a shame that he’s acting like this,” said Barbara Blaine, president of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. “I think he’s trying to push off the problems with Father Dan McCormack onto Cardinal Bernardin. I think that Cardinal George was reckless and deceptive and he made decisions that put the reputation of priests and the archdiocese above the protection of kids.”

Anderson said he was “deeply disappointed” in the cardinal’s letter.

“Instead of taking this opportunity to reflect on his own role and those of the other officials and their failures, he’s being defensive.”

Anderson said George also failed to give “credit to the courage of the survivors” in compelling the document release. “He makes it looks like this is something he’s doing and in fact it is the survivors that have effectively forced this through litigation and negotiation.”

Email: agolab@suntimes.com

Twitter: @ArtGolab

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