Recently released from Loyola University Hospital after a bout with dizzy spells, Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George met Monday night with members of a Chicago area parish whose pastor was removed because of molestation charges involving two boys between 2001 and 2005.
The Cardinal took the opportunity to apologize about the way the scandal was handled by the Archdiocese and seek reconciliation with parishioners.
Chicago police charged Fr. Daniel McCormack on January 21st with two counts of child molestation and said that they were looking into more. The priest was removed from active ministry before the charges were filed.
200 people crowded into the church for the two-hour meeting in which the major concern voiced was that parishioners did not know about the charges earlier.
The Cardinal said that the Archdiocese had not received an allegation in August, when the incident originally surfaced, only a notification from police that the priest was being questioned.
"I'm sorry to be with you”, a forlorn Cardinal George said, “because this occasion is one that shames me certainly."
On Saturday afternoon, the prelate made himself available for reporter’s questions in a press conference that surprised even his own staff.
There, he said that “The sins of priests and bishops destroy the church…That is what we’re seeing.”
With regard to why the Archdiocese didn’t act in August, when charges began to surface, the Cardinal said that “You can’t just snap your fingers and remove a pastor. There is a canonical process…Had I known then what I know now, I think I would have found some way to take him out.”
According to norms drafted by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2002, a priest with a “credible allegation of abuse” must be removed from ministry.
However, Cardinal George pointed out, for the allegation to be credible, it needs to be brought to the archdiocese by the victim or the victim’s parent or guardian. “Otherwise”, he said, “it’s hearsay . . . To investigate it, we have to get the information from the victim himself.”
Apparently, even more problems surfaced when the Archdiocese was not able to gain information on the charges from the state or local police department without a subpoena.
“When we tried to get the information from the state,” the Cardinal said, “we couldn’t get it. In a sense, it’s the opposite of what you usually think of as a cover-up. . . . In this case, we didn’t have the information and the state did have it. We asked the state for it and we couldn’t get it for their own reasons.”
Cardinal George has promised to bring up this difficult technicality at the next meeting of the U.S. Bishops in a sincere effort to prevent situations like this from occurring in other parishes and dioceses.