Chicago Archdiocese Under Pressure From Victims Of Priest Sex Abuse

The Chicago Archdiocese will continue to feel the pressure from victims of childhood sexual abuse by priests.

On Tuesday, over 6,000 pages of internal church documents were posted by attorneys and show how high-level officials of the third largest diocese in the United States tried to contain the growing scandal.

Actions taken by the Chicago Archdiocese include moving offending priests from parish to parish and hiding their histories from parishioners and other local church leaders.

Victims’ families and attorneys see the release as a positive development, however the release of the documents covers only 30 of the approximately 65 cases of sexual abuse reported.

Angel Santiago, who was abused in the 1980s by one of the 30 priests identified in the documents, said he hopes more victims of abuse come forward.

“These files here represent a lot for us survivors. For some of us it will be answers, for some of us it will be peace of mind (…) for all of us, it’s a start,” Santiago said. “And the more that we find more survivors, the stronger we get and we can get more files out of the archdiocese.”

“This is a great step, but what is settled is far from what we’re shooting for,” St. Paul, Minnesota attorney Jeff Anderson said Tuesday at a news conference.

Chicago Archdiocese officials have said they’ll review and develop a process to release documents on the 35 other cases.

The disturbing documents show years of sexual abuse by Catholic priests. “That’s in the past, we’re hoping,” Cardinal Francis George said in an interview this week.

Most of the incidents chronicled in the documents did happen in the past, however, the majority took place under George’s tenure.

The Cardinal, head of the Chicago Archdiocese has admitted to mishandling at least one incident, the case of convicted child molester Daniel McCormack, who was arrested in August 2005 after a 10-year-old boy claimed the priest had fondled him.

Police said the boy’s story was credible, but released McCormack after getting a call from an official from the archdiocese.

The documents also show how George and those under his leadership in the Chicago Archdiocese mishandled the case of the Reverend Joseph R. Bennett, a priest accused of molesting two sisters between 1967 and 1973 at St. John de la Salle in Chicago.

These are just two of the dozens of cases the Chicago Archdiocese has been accused of not handling properly and even though the McCormack and Bennett cases did result in some reforms, including the use of outside auditors and better reporting to police and child welfare officials, many feel it is not enough.

Bennett, now 73, has never been charged with a crime and has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing in church documents. He resigned in the summer 2012 and was never defrocked.

Of the 30 priests from named in the documents, 14 have died, all except for one are no longer priest, and none holds active ministry.

Officials in the Chicago Archdiocese said most of the abuse detailed in the documents released Tuesday took place before 1988, but not after 1996 and that the cases were ultimately reported to authorities.

The archdiocese of Chicago has paid more than $100 million to victims in the last 25 years. Monies have been raised by land sales and a recent bond issue.