Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Chicago Archdiocese pays $12.7 million to settle child abuse cases

That's the headline this afternoon on the Chicago Tribune website.

And I do not begrudge the victims of these crimes one shiny red cent. I hope the money helps them heal. I hope it helps them find peace. But I hope you can understand that I'm extremely angry about this, too.

Because it's not an impersonal "Archdiocese" paying out these millions -- it's folks like me and my neighbors who put an envelope in the basket every week at Mass.

Because it's not just something that happened long ago that we didn't understand or just found out about: At least some of the millions paid today are paid to victims of Daniel McCormack, who was sentenced to five years in jail just last summer after pleading guilty to abusing five boys between the ages of 8 and 12 between 2001 and 2006. Eric Herman and Susan Hogan/Albach reported in the July 3, 2007 edition of the Chicago Sun-Times about the plea, including a statement by Assistant State's Attorney Kathleen Muldoon that, with one victim, the abuse occurred "on nearly a daily basis" between September 2005 and January 2006.

Columnist Michael Sneed reported, in that same July 3, 2007 edition of the Sun-Times that she had heard "rumbles" that McCormack "reportedly vacationed several times with a top religious honcho in the Chicago archdiocese while complaints against him were being probed."


And, to make matters worse, that July 3 article by Eric Herman and Susan Hogan/Albach reported that "archdiocese spokeswoman Colleen Dolan said the perception of McCormack's crimes was worse than the reality. The priest admitted he pulled down the pants and fondled the genitals of five boys, but prosecutors never accused him of sexual assault, or rape."

If that doesn't get your blood boiling, you have no blood at all: Thank God it wasn't rape... but are we -- or the victims -- to find comfort in this? The reality is awful, inexcusable and horrific.

And the worst part is, there were warning signs and red flags galore concerning McCormack. Susan Hogan/Albach's November 14, 2007 follow up article for the Sun-Times reports that officials at Mundelein Seminary were made aware of sexual misconduct allegations against McCormack in 1992, before he was ordained "involving two adult males and a minor."

But the then-rector of the Mundelein Seminary went ahead and approved McCormack's ordination. Hogan/Albach interviewed the former rector, now Tuscon Bishop Gerald Kicanas, for the November article. Even knowing about McCormack's conviction, Bishop Kicanas still defended the decision to ordain McCormack. He said it would have been "grossly unfair not to have ordained him" because the allegations against McCormack were not "credible." (Kicanas did say there was concern about McCormack's drinking and he was 'referred to counseling for this problem.' Wonderful.)

In addition to his duties in Tuscon, Kicanas is now Vice President of the United States Council of Catholic Bishops.

As a Catholic, I'm inclined to take the long view: The Church survived the Renaissance Popes... it can survive the current plague of child abusers. But the abusers must be ruthlessly extirpated, root and stem and branch and leaves. Along with everyone else (of whatever rank or dignity) who looked the other way or who knew or should have known.

In announcing the settlement today, Cardinal George apologized again, to the victims and to the Church in Chicago. But more apologies just won't do. Not any more.

In one sense, some of the money we've kicked in each Sunday to the Church has been allocated toward healing victims of abuse. That's a good thing. But, in another and very real sense, that same money has been used to underwrite and smooth over, even subsidize, the abusers' criminal lifestyle.

This can't be allowed to continue.


sari said...

It is unfortunate the money that churchgoers contribute is funneled towards things that they may not ever have meant it to go towards, but the church is made up of many people who probably had an inkling of how things were and obviously didn't put a stop to things way back when they first heard about it.

I don't think all the money in the world can make up for sexual abuse - whether it's "fondling" or rape or whatever. The priest is supposed to be God's representative - it's just not right. It's worse that people in the organization knew and turned a blind eye towards it. You're right, they all need to go.

Ralph said...

We all need to remember that it isn't just priests/clergy.

It can be anybody having control over and the trust of the victim. Teachers, doctors, or whatever professions we entrust our children to. A small percentage abuses, but with too far consequences for the victims.

Any rot starts at the top, we all know...

Empress Bee (of the high sea) said...

recently here in podunk a coach/math teacher was arrested for this. he was both my grandsons coach and teacher. in this case he liked little girls, not boys. we were the lucky ones, this time.

i was not lucky when i was a little girl of eight.

watch out for anyone that has an occupation or hobby around children. cub scouts too. coaches.

of course there are wonderful people here too, but i always keep a keen eye on them. and i always will.

back when i was little we did not talk about it and they did not go to jail. they stayed in the community. to strike again. and again.

think i have strong feelings about this curmy? you'd be right my friend...

smiles, bee

Dave said...

Your post and Bee's comment make me sad. Not because you're wrong, you are right.

I'm sad because what people have done, be they priests, day care workers, etc., makes my world not as enjoyable, the horror of their actions aside.

I can't respond the the little girl next door's gesture that she wants a hug. I can't talk to kids in a park because I'm not there with a kid of my own.

It's in a way, like Title whatever, that prevents me from saying that a woman in the office looks especially nice in her new dress.

Because others abuse their relationships, I cannot act as I otherwise would and it makes me sad.