Archdiocese pays $2.3 million to settle sexual abuse case
BY FRANCINE KNOWLES Religion and General Assignment Reporter November 26, 2013 12:10PM
Updated: December 28, 2013 6:22AM
A $2.3 million settlement in a sexual abuse survivor case involving a former priest and filed against the Archdiocese of Chicago and Cardinal Francis George was announced by attorneys Tuesday.
The victim, identified only as John Doe, is now in his early 20s, and was sexually abused in his pre-teen and early teen years by Daniel McCormack between 2004 and 2006, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit alleged “McCormack would invite the plaintiff inside the rectory of St. Agatha Catholic Church, where he would sit plaintiff on his lap, unzip his pants and fondle” the plaintiff.
It also alleged that the defendants “knew or should have known of McCormack’s dangerous and exploitative propensities as a child molester.”
Attorneys Jeff Anderson and Marc Pearlman also said files, including information on allegations of sexual abuse made against McCormack and more than two dozen other priests in additional sexual abuse cases that have been settled, will be released by the Archdiocese as part of settlements Jan. 15. Those files also will include information on how church officials responded to those allegations.
“This settlement for $2.3 million represents the magnitude of the harm done and also the legal responsibility that the archdiocese bears for allowing him at that parish after having had a long history of reports of offenses,” Anderson said.
“So, this settlement represents some closure for this victim, but it also represents a commitment to make sure that the history regarding McCormack and 29 other offenders is made known and public so that the past can be revealed and not repeated in the future.”
The archdiocese said in a statement it is practice to reach out to victims “and attempt to resolve their claims without the stress of an extended legal process. We remain committed to resolving sexual abuse cases in a way that results in a prompt and fair settlement for the victims and their families.”
Attorneys said the other settled cases will include former priests Robert Mayer, Robert Becker, Ralph Strand, Ken Ruge, Joseph Fitzharris and Marion Snieg and others.
McCormack, who was removed from the priesthood in November, 2007, pleaded guilty that year to abusing five children while he was a parish priest at St. Agatha.
Ruge, Becker, Snieg and Strand are dead. Mayer resigned in 1994 and was removed from the priesthood in 2010. Fitzharris resigned in 1995 and was removed from the priesthood in 2009.
The archdiocese reached a $12.6 million settlement in 2008 with 16 survivors of clergy sexual abuse, two who claimed they were molested by McCormack, the Chicago Sun-Times then reported.
In 2011, the archdiocese agreed to pay $3.2 million to a man who was abused by McCormack between ages 10 and 12, according to a Sun-Times report.
“Settlements are often healing, but they don’t work miracles,” said David Clohessy, executive director of the Chicago-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. “It’s helpful when those responsible for terrible harm take some responsibility. But no check or conviction or defrocking suddenly erases decades of devastation. So it’s critical that these brave victims keep working on their own recovery from this horror.”
Anderson said he expects release of the files to prompt more victims to come forward and lead to more lawsuits.
The Archdiocese of Chicago lists 65 priests with allegations of sexual misconduct with a minor who are no longer in ministry because the allegations were substantiated by the archdiocese’s review process. The list includes substantiated allegations since 1950.
The archdiocese said “no priest with even one credible allegation of abuse is in active ministry.”
It confirmed that it will release documents in January on 30 priests and added it is working to update its website with more complete information on about 30 others.
“It is our hope that this and other actions will encourage victims of abuse to come forward to receive help and healing,” the archdiocese said.
It’s important that victims, witnesses and whistleblowers contact police even if the sexual abuse occurred long ago, Clohessy said. That’s because “it’s very likely that some of these men are still molesting and could still face criminal charges and be kept away from kids,” he stressed.