Chicago archdiocese to release sex abuse documents

Categories: Nation/World

Jan. 17, 2014, edition
By Catholic News Service 

Chicago Cardinal Francis E. George, in a letter published in parish bulletins, said “any abuse of a young person is heartbreaking” and such cases have put “a heavy burden on all of us in the church.”

His letter announced that in cooperation with the Chicago Archdiocese, lawyers representing those who have brought claims of past abuse planned to release documents pertaining to 30 archdiocesan priests accused of abusing minors at various times in past years.

The release is a result of a mediation agreement between claimants and the archdiocese.

“We cannot change the past, but we can help those affected and work to ensure this does not happen again,” Cardinal George said in his letter.

Ninety-five percent of the incidents in the cases occurred prior to 1988, according to an archdiocesan press release. All cases were reported to civil authorities “and the archdiocese did not hide abuse or protect abusers,” it said.

The files name 30 priests, almost all of whom have been laicized or are deceased; none is currently in ministry. The archdiocese said the names have been listed on its website for several years.

“Today there are no diocesan priests in ministry in the Archdiocese of Chicago with substantiated sexual abuse claims against them,” the release said.

In his letter, Cardinal George said all the incidents referenced in the files “were reported over the years to the civil authorities and claims have been mediated civilly.

“Almost all of the incidents happened decades ago, perpetrated by priests whom neither I nor many younger clergy have ever met or talked to, because the priests were either dead or out of ministry before I came to Chicago as archbishop,” he added. Then-Archbishop George was installed to head the Chicago Archdiocese in 1997. Pope John Paul II named him a cardinal a year later.

In his letter, Cardinal George said that although the files are about old cases, their release “nevertheless . . . puts the actions of these men and the archdiocese itself in the spotlight. Painful though publicly reviewing the past can be, it is part of the accountability and transparency to which the archdiocese is committed.”

An archdiocesan victim assistance ministry has been in place for more than 25 years, the press release noted.

The Office for the Protection of Children and Youth provides support to abuse survivors and their families, trains adults and children on how to recognize and prevent abuse and offers annual audits that “ensure all church organizations comply with archdiocesan policies concerning abuse.”