The Archdiocese of Chicago has reached a settlement totaling $12,675,000 with 16 victims of clerical sexual abuse. Speaking about the settlement, Archbishop of Chicago Cardinal Cardinal George said he has to “accept the blame” for the abuse which occurred during his tenure.
Fourteen of the cases relate to abuse by ten different priests in incidents occurring between 1962 and 1994. Two relate to Daniel J. McCormack, who in 2007 pled guilty to having abused five children. With the new settlement, the archdiocese has settled four of the five cases to which McCormack pled guilty.
“My hope is that these settlements will help the survivors and their families begin to heal and move forward,” said Cardinal George in an archdiocesan press statement. “I apologize again today to the survivors and their families and to the whole Catholic community. We must continue to do everything in our power to ensure the safety of the children in our care.”
"In the sense I'm responsible for this archdiocese, I have to accept the blame," George said at a Tuesday press conference, according to the Chicago Tribune.
A press release from the Archdiocese of Chicago reported that the settlements were reached through a “comprehensive mediation process” designed by the archdiocese and attorneys for the victims. In the mediation, documents and information were shared, information was publicly disclosed, and a special arbitrator was used to resolve disputes.
Thomas Gibbons, an attorney and dean of the School of Continuing Studies, Northwestern University, served as the mediator and Stuart Nudelman, a retired judge, was the special arbitrator.
Gibbons said the mediation set a standard for “best practices” and can serve as a model for the future.
During the mediation in January, Cardinal George gave an eight-hour deposition whose text has been posted to the Archdiocese of Chicago’s web site.
In the deposition the cardinal said police, prosecutors, and child welfare officials share some blame for McCormack going free.
The deposition also examined the case of priest Joseph Bennett, showing that the cardinal and church officials had received four detailed allegations of sexual abuse against him dating back to 2002. Despite two removal recommendations from the archdiocese’s review board, he was not removed from Holy Ghost Parish until 2006, the Chicago Tribune says.
Cardinal George said the delay was due to the priest’s lack of representation by a canon lawyer.
Instead of being removed, Bennett was supervised by Father Leonard Dubi, who was apparently a close friend. By the time of Bennett’s removal, he faced more than a dozen allegations of abuse but the archdiocese did not notify parishioners or the public.
In his deposition, Cardinal George said George Rassass, who was then the vicar general but is now auxiliary bishop, along with Father Grace withheld information about McCormack before his promotion to a supervisory role soon after his arrest. Reportedly these actions resulted in a letter of reprimand being placed in their file.
Regarding the case of Norbert Mayday, a priest who is now in a mental institution, Cardinal George said most of the victims he spoke to were most concerned that Mayday would never function as a priest again, “not whether he was in prison or not.”
According to the Chicago Tribune, Jeff Anderson, an attorney for the victims in Chicago and other dioceses, asked Cardinal George whether he is more concerned about the rights of accused priests than protecting children.
“No,” the cardinal answered. “The children at risk were, I thought, protected and they were in this case by the monitoring and the restrictions. I was interested in fairness, the same values that permeate any legal system.”
Therese Albrecht, one of Bennett’s accusers, said she felt ignored when she came forward in 2004 and now feels “indescribable anger and pain.”
“What price can you put on an 8-year-old's virginity?" she said, according to the Chicago Tribune. "He didn't call me up. I never got an apology."
Anderson, an attorney for some of the victims, said the mediation was a “significant step,” an archdiocesan press statement reports.
“The mediation process with the Archdiocese of Chicago was particularly effective because of the courage of the survivors and the personal involvement of Cardinal George,” said Anderson. “Cardinal George was actively involved in this process. He has demonstrated his commitment to healing these survivors. The release of his deposition today is a significant step toward openness and transparency and helps the survivors and the church community in healing and recovery.”
At least 250 people have been sexually abused by clergy in the Archdiocese of Chicago. The archdiocese’s abuse settlements at present total over $77 million.