.- 11 priests of the Archdiocese of Chicago have been officially removed from public ministry and have reached the conclusion of an investigation which determined that the men engaged in sexual misconduct with minors more 20 years ago.
The priests are part of an original group of 14 who were suspected of sexual impropriety and have undergone an investigation conducted by the Archdiocese and the Holy See.
Since the original findings two years ago, one of the priests has died, and two are still pending trial. Cardinal Francis George, according to the Archdiocese, has determined that sufficient evidence of the misconduct exists in the rest of the cases and has officially barred them from publicly practicing their priestly faculties.
Archdiocesan spokesman Jimmy Lago said that in making his determinations, Cardinal George "reviewed all of the material collected in the cases, listened to the opinions of the advocates for the priests and sought advice from his own canonical advisors as well as from assessors who are canon lawyers independent of the Archdiocese."
"In each of the eleven cases," he said, "Cardinal George has determined, based on the information presented, that sexual misconduct did occur."
Lago added that the allegations were "reported to the civil authorities, and parishes were notified when the priests were withdrawn" two years ago. "The Holy See", he said, "agreed to review the cases, even though the activity fell outside of the statute of limitations in Canon Law."
Each of the 11 now, in accord with Archdiocesan policies, are barred from "engaging in any public ministry, presenting himself as a priest or acting as an agent of the Archdiocese of Chicago."
The priests will not, as some have suggested, be removed from the priesthood itself. This is due to the indelible and permanent nature of the sacrament of Holy Orders given to priests at their ordination.
Cardinal Georgeâs decision comes in light of new policies adopted by the U.S. Catholic Bishops at their meeting in Dallas three years ago--held at the height of the priestly sexual scandal.