.- The Archdiocese of Chicago released the disturbing findings of their "Report on Clerical Sexual Abuse of Minors Findings and Solutions" yesterday. In response to the wide-sweeping, independent probe, Cardinal Francis George said that he was “deeply troubled.”
In a statement, the Cardinal said that “This is a tragedy for the children, for their families and all who are involved. But it also represents failures within the Archdiocese to react promptly and appropriately to what happened in these cases.”
He stressed that “Sexual abuse or molestation of a child by any adult is disordered. It is a sin and a crime.”
“When children or young people”, he added, “are robbed of their innocence and suffer the pain, anguish and anxiety caused by the illegal and immoral actions of a priest, a person of trust, the tragedy of sexual abuse is compounded.”
He quickly pointed out however, that the archdiocese’s Father Daniel McCormack “has been arrested and charged with sexually abusing three children” and that the Church is continuing to look into additional accusations by more families.
“It is up to the legal process now to determine innocence or guilt on the part of Father McCormack,” he said, “but we have tried to examine our own actions and mistakes.”
“We are here today”, he went on, “to report to the people of the community on how we intend to move forward to further strengthen our commitment to the protection and safety of children.”
Cardinal George also said that he has asked Chancellor Jimmy Lago, “an expert in child welfare, to take a hard look at what went wrong and to implement changes.”
In is his statement, the Cardinal also wished to share some personal thoughts.
“For the many missteps in responding to the accusations of sexual abuse of minors by Father McCormack,” he said, “I accept responsibility.”
“For the tragedy of allowing children to be in the presence of a priest against whom an accusation of sexual abuse had been made,” he continued, “I am truly sorry. I should have focused more clearly on the actions we needed to take and I should have taken them more quickly.”
“For not following the advice of our independent Professional Responsibility Review Board to remove Father McCormack temporarily, even without a judgment about his actions,” he added, “I am deeply sorry.”
The Cardinal stressed his commitment “to a full disclosure of the facts and to the implementation of deliberate, meaningful changes to do all in our power to ensure that such events never happen again”.
The Monday report showed a widespread breakdown in communications within the Archdiocese. For example, a priest charged with molesting three boys had been accused years before of having questionable conduct with a minor while he was in the seminary and was still allowed to be ordained.
The report was based on investigations conducted by two outside consultants and an internal review. It noted that the archdiocese's failure to follow its own procedures put children in harm's way and may have violated Illinois law.
It also discovered that various archdiocese departments responsible for dealing with abuse allegations failed to communicate. Likewise, the archdiocese didn't seem to follow its own procedures and at one point, determined that a policy of monitoring priests accused of sex crimes would be adequate.
The investigations were sparked by allegations against Fr. McCormack. He pleaded not guilty earlier this month to aggravated criminal sexual abuse charges and is accused of molesting three boys between September 2001 and January 2005.
According to the Associated Press, officials at St. Mary of the Lake Seminary in Mundelein were told that Fr. McCormack acted inappropriately with two adult males and one adult minor in 1992, according to the report. McCormack was ordained in 1994.
Jim Dwyer, a spokesman for the Archdiocese said that all the information in the report has now been turned over to prosecutors, who will decide if penalties should be imposed on the church or its employees.
During an interview with Jay Levine of Chicago’s CBS 2 news, Cardinal George admitted his devastation at the consultant’s report.
"You read it, and you weep," he said.
Asked if the review board was upset that he did not follow its recommendation, the Cardinal said, "Of course. Sure, I would be too, and I understand that. I wish I had taken their precautionary advice."
Appearing clearly shaken, he told Levine, "When I pray, I think about the faces of children abused by priests…And those are intense moments, and I ask the Lord to protect them."
Regarding Fr. McCormick, Cardinal George lamented, "Police let him go free, and I misunderstood that to mean that they thought he wasn't a danger. I think now as I've been told by lawyers and others, it doesn't mean that, but it was certainly in my mind at the time. I didn't think he was a danger."
The full report, presented by Defenbaugh & Associates, Inc., is available at the Archdiocese of Chicago's web site: http://www.archdiocese-chgo.org/keeping_children_safe/report_032006/defenbaugh_report.pdf