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Cardinal George revises history.

On Tuesday, the Archdiocese of Chicago released six thousand pages of documents related to the cases of thirty priests credibly accused of sexual abuse. The files, made public as part of a settlement with victims, offer a predictably depressing view of archdiocesan failures over the past several decades. You know the dirge: priests quietly shuttled from parish to parish, civil authorities kept in the dark about some cases (and colluding with church officials to keep others from public scrutiny), laypeople and clergy alike failing to report allegations, bishops refusing to suspend dangerous priests.

For releasing these documents and for making public the names of known abusers, Cardinal Francis George--archbishop of Chicago since 1997--takes some credit. "Publishing for all to read the actual records of these crimes," he wrote in a letter warning Chicagoans about the document dump, "raises transparency to a new level." Perhaps. But he did not volunteer these files. They would not have come out if it hadn't been for victims who pressed for their release as part of a legal settlement. What's more, it's difficult to take seriously Cardinal George's brief for transparency when he seems so intent on obscuring his own role in the scandal.

That letter was repurposed as George's latest column in the Catholic New World. It's titled "Accountability and Transparency"--because, the cardinal says, the archdiocese is "committed" to both. "For more than twenty years," he writes, "the archdiocese has reported all allegations of sexual abuse to civil authorities and to DCFS [Department of Child and Family Services]." He makes it sound like every allegation the archdiocese has received has been promptly reported to civil authorities. That's not what happened.

Thanks to a 2006 audit commissioned by Cardinal George himself, we know that archdiocesan employees sat on allegations against Daniel McCormack, who in 2007 pleaded guilty to abusing five children, served half of a five-year sentence, and now resides in a mental institution. (Files related to the McCormack case remain sealed, pending further litigation.) McCormack was arrested in August 2005 on an allegation of abusing a minor, then released, only to be arrested again five months later. But in September 2003, the office of the vicar for priests had received an accusation of misconduct against McCormack--and did not report it to civil authorities. It didn't even initiate an internal investigation because the complainant left a phone number but not a name. "A complainant who leaves a telephone number and requests a return call to be notified of the status of the complaint is not considered an anonymous complaint," according to the audit. The archdiocese didn't act on this accusation until McCormack was arrested the second time--twenty-eight months after it had received that initial complaint.

In October 1999, the principal of Holy Family School was told by a fourth-grader that McCormack had instructed him to take down his pants to be measured. According to the princpal, a nun, the child's mother confronted McCormack, who would only repeat that he had "used poor judgment." Later, the nun said, the mother was seen wearing a new ring and began paying her son's tuition in cash. The nun discussed the accusation with an assistant superintendant at the archdiocesan Office of Catholic Schools. She also hand-delivered a letter detailing the events to the front desk of the chancery. But, according to the 2006 audit, neither the principal nor archdiocesan officials reported the allegation to DCFS or to local law enforcement, "as required by law."

NPR reported that in 2005 the mother of one of McCormack's accusers contacted Leah McCluskey, who was in charge of diocesan abuse investigations, to say that her son complained that McCormack had fondled him at school on at least two occasions in '03. McCluskey promised to investigate, according to the mother, who also informed the school principal. But it was the mother's call to police--not the archdiocese's--that prompted McCormack's first arrest. He was released for lack of evidence.

Between 1999 and 2005, several allegations against or suspicions about McCormack were brought to the attention of Office of Catholic Schools personnel, the audit found. They "considered these...credible enough for the teachers to conduct their own informal monitoring of their students when Fr. McCormack was present," according to the audit. But nobody reported the allegations to civil authorities. Why? "The primary reason...was that each of the OCS personnel either was unaware of the proper procedures for reporting or that one thought the other had reported" the allegations. Almost none of the OCS staff interviewed for the audit were aware of their reporting responsibilities under state law.

The audit does not mince words about these lapses: "Employees of the Archdiocese of Chicago have violated the Illinois Statute, Abused and Neglected Reporting Act." So why would Cardinal George claim that for over two decades "the archdiocese has reported all allegations of sexual abuse to the civil authorities"?

Another puzzling aspect of George's letter is his rendition of the facts surrounding the McCormack case. "The public story," the cardinal claims, "has been largely fashioned by plaintiffs' lawyers and other activists and deliberately distorts or ignores points that would mitigate the charge of archdiocesan neglect." That isn't quite the same tone George struck in the immediate aftermath of the McCormack scandal. "For the many missteps in responding to the accusations of sexual abuse of minors by Fr. McCormack, I must accept responsibility and do," George said in March 2006. "For the tragedy of allowing children to be in the presence of a priest against whom a current accusation of sexual abuse had been made," he continued, "I am truly sorry."

The cardinal was referring to the fact that even though his own sexual-abuse review board recommended that McCormack be removed from ministry in October 2005, George did not heed their advice. And when board members started reading media accounts that suggested they were the ones who failed to act, they shared their displeasure with the cardinal. As NPR reported, between the fall of 2005 and McCormack's second arrest in January 2006, "four boys say they were molested" by him. "I should have found at least some fashion in the canons to remove provisionally Fr. McCormack," Cardinal George said at a 2007 news conference (in fact canon law gives bishops a great deal of latitude to suspend priests). "I take responsibility for not doing that, and I'm saddened by my own failure."

Is he still? Because his column doesn't mention the fact that he rejected his review board's recommendation to suspend McCormack. He writes that "the first association of his name with the possible sexual abuse of a minor" came after the first arrest. He notes that McCormack was released without charges (but doesn't say that McCormack's brother is a Chicago cop). He points out that McCormack "was put under monitoring and his ministry with children restricted while the archdiocese began to investigate."

But he neglects to cite the criticism of the two audits he commissioned following McCormack's second arrest--both of which found several glaring deficiencies in the monitoring process. For example, McCormack's monitor was never told why he had to keep an eye on the cleric. The principal of the school where McCormack taught was not informed that the archdiocese wanted him to stay away from kids. And McCormack was allowed to take three minors on a shopping excursion to Minnesota while his monitor was out of town for Labor Day. The monitor was away over the Christmas 2005 holiday--during that time McCormack allegedly abused a child.

Cardinal George does find room to complain that civil authorities did not "share with the archdiocese what they came to know in their investigations." In fact DCFS did copy the archdiocese on a December 2005 letter to McCormack informing him that an investigation determined a finding against him indicating sexual molestation. He laments the fact that "various [diocesan] offices involved did not consistently share what they knew with each other or with me." That's true. There was a tragic breakdown in communication at nearly every stage of the McCormack case. But that doesn't explain why George refused his review board's advice to suspend the cleric. 

"From the time he was arrested and released," George writes, "to the time that he was arrested a second time and eventually pled guilty, no one involved in investigating the allegation, not even the review board that struggled with their justified concerns, told me they thought he was guilty." Even if that's true, it's irrelevant. A review board's job is not to discover once and for all whether an accused priest is guilty beyond reasonable doubt. Rather, its job is to determine whether allegations are credible and to advise the bishop whether an accused priest should be suspended pending further investigation.

At various points over the years, the archdiocese has tried to downplay the review board's advice about McCormack, calling it "informal" or "interim"--even after McCormack's second arrest. That attitude is consistent with one of the audit's findings about the archdiocese's approach to the case from the start. The archdiocese "as a whole displayed great consternation to the point of becoming mired in semantics as it pertains to the meaning of 'allegation,' attempting to identify if the allegation(s) was 'formal or informal,' 'credible or not credible,' 'substantiated or unsubstantiated,' 'second party or third party,' and what to do with the 'allegation' at the onset of receiving the allegation." The audit concludes that these "concerns and nonaction on the part of archdiocesan personnel created situations whereby children were placed at risk."

Cardinal George cannot actually believe that bishops should leave accused priests in ministry until their review boards can say they are 100-percent sure that the accused are guilty. So why is he pretending that he maintained such a standard in 2005--just three years after he says he pressed the U.S. Catholic bishops to adopt a zero-tolerance policy on abusive priests?

But the McCormack case wasn't the first time George declined to follow his review board's recommendation to suspend an accused priest. In the troubling case of Joseph Bennett, who was accused of molesting several minors (and whose file was included in Tuesday's document dump), the review board's investigation dragged on for years before it finally found "reasonable cause to suspect" that Bennett had abused. On October 15, 2005, it advised Cardinal George of that finding, and "reccommended that Fr. Bennett be immediately withdrawn from ministry." The cardinal accepted that recommendation on October 18. But a few weeks later, he had a change of heart. On November 7, 2005, he informed the review board that "I have since reconsidered this matter and would like to postpone a final decision for the time being."

The Bennett case turned on gruesome details. At one point his canon lawyer showed up at a review-board meeting with a paten--a liturgical instrument designed to hold Communion--in order to demonstrate how difficult it would be to insert its handle into the rectum of a child, as one complainant alleged. At another meeting, the review board ordered Bennett to be examined by a physician to see whether an accuser's recollection of a freckle on his scrotum was accurate. Eventually, the review board came to find that testimony credible, and that's what led them to recommend Bennett's suspension.

But that wasn't enough for George. At a December 3, 2005, meeting, he argued with review-board members about the matter at some length. "Other parts of [the complainant's] allegation seem to be inaccurate," the meeting minutes record the cardinal saying--"except for the presence of freckles on Fr. Bennett's scrotum." He repeatedly mentioned his concern that canonical procedure be followed scrupulously, insisting that Bennett be given another opportunity to address the review board about these allegations (the minutes clarify that Bennett did address the board at their previous meeting). He expressed his concern that the Vatican would bounce the case back to Chicago if they didn't "abide by procedure and 'the code.'" He asked why Bennett didn't have canonical counsel sooner, apprently not realizing that the priest took nearly a year to respond to the review board's initial invitation to meet with them.

One could be forgiven for seeing such delays as strategic. For a while, they worked. Then McCormack was arrested a second time. Days later, George informed Bennett that he was suspended indefinitely.

The McCormack and Bennett cases are different in many respects, but in at least one they are the same: the archbishop did not follow his review board's advice to suspend an accused priest. And in that way they are emblematic of the scandal as a whole. The church has learned a lot since the 2002 wave of scandals broke. Its laypeople and clergy are better educated about sexual abuse. They're taught what to look out for. Children and adults are encouraged not to keep misconduct to themselves. But no set of sexual-abuse policies is perfect. And in Catholic dioceses, they remain subject to the whims of bishops. Who knows what led George to reject his review board's recommendations? But we do know what happened when he failed to follow them.

"Telling the truth does not create an excuse for failure," Cardinal George writes in his column. "But it makes a difference, as we go forward, to know in what the failure consists, to know that the truth has been told and that the church is committed to accountability and transparency." Two years ago, Cardinal George sent his resignation letter to Rome after turning seventy-five, as required by canon law. Sooner or later Pope Francis will accept it, and appoint a new archbishop for the nation's third largest diocese. Chicago Catholics are weary of the sexual-abuse crisis. They're tired of reading about abusive priests and the bishops who enabled them. And they deserve an archbishop who's willing to be honest with them about the worst scandal they've ever known.

About the Author

Grant Gallicho is an associate editor of Commonweal. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter.



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Did we really expect that Cardinal George would not be self-serving and "repenatant" of his past defensive postures in these reports? At leas they are now in public... and perhaps he deserves some credit for only that.

Thanks, Grant for an excellent analysis.

My daughter forwarded me a copy of George's letter read at all masses in which he stated about McCormack:

'...... points to Bernardin’s role in promoting the now-defrocked priest, noting that Bernardin ordained McCormack and later elevated him to a “position of trust.”

George later clarified his Bernardin comments admitting that someone such as McCormack who led a double life could and did manipulate, fool, and deceive folks.

Can't wait for Wilton Gregory to be named to replace him ASAP.


What?  No criticism from George of the media for it's purient interests in the sexual perversions of Catholic priests?  No accusations from George that critics of the Chicago archdiocese's handling of it's priests raping and sodomizing children comes really just from "anti-Catholic" bigots?

George is one of the chief reasons that the Catholic hierarchy is held is such low esteem these days by the faithful and the public at large.  I wonder if Papa Francesco had George in mind when he said that clerics "should have the smell of the sheep on them"?

George's imminent retreat into retirement could come fast enough.  Hasta la vista, baby!

There's probably a manual somewhere for politicians who are caught in a scandal.  George appears to have memorized it.


Thanks for a lucid analysis of this sordid 'reign'.. I guess aging/dying is the only way we will be truly free of these aging weasel wording hierarchy. .

Grant, thank you for your patience. I would really love to know to what extent they believe it themselves when they say, "I did the best I could, and what do you know? things went wrong." I mean, examining my own conscience I find I can tell myself that on some things, but not when it is so blatant. But maybe if I had ever sniffed more power, who knows?...


My appreciation also, Grant, for assiduous work. Angela, how right you are. As information streamed out big time in the nineties about the numerous incidients of sexual abuse by clergy, I was amazed by how the vast majority of Catholics and even liberal Catholic publications discounted the veracity of the victims' complaints. It is only after the Boston Globe made it crystal clear by painful detailed accounts of abusers did the public believe them. Even then some did not want to believe. Same with the Maciel fiasco. 

I got my answer reading about the Christie imbroglio when I read "...the Christie machine broke a basic law of politics, codified by a corrupt Philadelphia politician and passed along byRichard Aregood, a Pulitzer Prize-winning newsman: “Never do anything crooked or evil that the average person can understand.”  The average person understands a massive traffic jam. The average Catholic could not see what was going on. It is the same with the abuse of money in the church. The next big scandal. We have tons of recounts about pastors stealing millions and bishops lying about funds.. But until the books are opened and people are defrocked or go to jail, the Catholic public will not see it. 

This is why George and other bishops can lie. The average person cannot understand it. Otherwise there would be mass demonstrations against George and others. The church does not have Federal prosecutors like in the Christie scandal.  Avoidance of exposure is still more important than justice.  

This is why Francis is so important. He is the only one willing to reign in these "monsters."

Thanks, Grant, for setting the record straingt.  The truth matters.

Thanks, Grant, for another incisive and full analysis. It appears clear that even under Pope Francis the hierarchy will not adequately protect children unless compelled to do so by outside government pressure. Perhaps President Obama can get the message across when they meet in two months, see, "Meeting of President Obama and Pope Francis Is Really Important", at:

Grant - some follow up thoughts to add:

- Bernardin aggressively dealt with and released a significant number of abusers' names in 1991 - long before it had become a national issue.  Was this *perfect* or *comprehensive* - no, but it was more than 90% of any other US bishop.

- Unlike George, Bernardin had to deal with a personal allegation/accusation from a former seminarian.  By all reports, Bernardin did so with grace, courage and even forgave the seminarian when he recanted his allegation.  George brings none of that personal experience to this issue.

- George says that the archdiocese has been transparent and effective for more than 20 years...yet, he took over in 1997.  So, he is speaking for Bernardin from 1994-1997....wonder if that is really a good idea or is he just generalizing again?

- George did not implement or act like Bernardin (in 1991) even though he had the advantage of 10+ years of US experience on this issue, the Boston scandal, and the Dallas Charter.  If anything, comparing the two cardinals reveals that George appears to have misunderstood the whole issue even with 10+ years of evidence, experience, policies, etc.

Finally, was wondering if you were going to update Nienstedt - Minneapolis NPR produced a very interesting update analysis that reveals from folks such as the resigned chancery official how Nienstedt operated  e.g. worked mostly late nights and week-ends.  Famously produced all communication for the departments/organizations via memos (he does not like meetings, one on one conversations, etc.)  These memos are on his *blue* paper....thus, come Monday, the chancery was paralyzed because folks had to address his stack of memos.  e.g. example of one blue memo in which he complained about a parking garage of the archdiocese in which lights were left on).  He also made it clear to his executive team not to stop him in the hallways - if they engaged in conversation, he would say anything to end it quickly.  All action had to be through memos. 

Talk about neuroticism and dysfunction.


The church officials, including Cardinal George, change their stories to fit their own self serving purpose to not be held accountable for their crimes of covering up the sex abuse of children.
And tragically the Chicago Archdiocese is not unique in how they handle child sex abuse. It is a systemic corrupt system within the entire church hierarchy. The sex abuse and cover up within the church hierarchy throughout the world is still going on to this day. Cardinals and bishops are still not removing accused predator clergy, and they are still not reporting to law enforcement. Their so called zero tolerance policy is not being followed by the bishops who created it. They dont have to, because there is no punishment to force the bishops/cardinals to change their ways of protecting their image and the institution rather than protecting innocent kids.

Until high ranking church officials are held accountable by outside law enforcement for their crimes against humanity, nothing will change and children are still not safe within this archaic secret institution.
Children are safest when child predators and those who enable and conceal their crimes are held responsible by the law of the land..

Judy Jones, SNAP Midwest Associate Director, USA, 636-433-2511,
SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests


Ms. Jones --

What changes would you make in the hierarchical system to assure that children are protected?  What needs to be done?  I'm not asking for an official SNAP position.  I'd just like to hear your own suggestions about what would be a practical course to take.

Thanks for all your contributions here.

Ann Oliver's questions are fair ones, but the real question is WWPFD?

"The Joy of the Gospel" has to be backed up by new and tougher policies with the bishops. The details need to include recommended resignation or removal, but I know that Canon Law does not proabbaly support that. 

Ok ...right I get it...Grant and the rest of you are the only ones with integrity. Cardinal George apparently has none. Judy from SNAP - let's canonize her.

Conclusion: 'Evil' hierarchical church

You guys faced with the sin and psychopathology of the human condition would have handled it all so well if you only had been given oversight.

Great - can I have some of what you guys are smoking. Or are you simply arogant and delusional by nature?

I am arrogant by nature, delusional through technique.

It's good to see that Jesse Pruzak acknowledges "the sin and psychopathology of the human condition" of the  Catholic bishops who enabled abusive priests -- and of the religious superiors of male religious orders who also served as enablers of abusive priests in religious orders.


Cardinal George is a very egotistical person. Having integrity or not really has nothing to do with it. He doesn't ever see that he's wrong or that he ought to listen to advisors. He thinks he ought to know better than anybody else, and so he does know better. Which is how he gets himself into these binds, and why he is determined to defend decisions he shouldn't have made. It's all very sad, for the victims, for Chicago, for the Church in America over which he has held a lot of sway, and for the Cardinal himself, only he doesn't know it.

He's not the only person on the planet with faults or a big blind spot when it comes to his own faults, but he has been in charge of a big diocese and has been president of the conference during some very important times of decision, and public persons do come in for critique for their decisions. From those to whom much is given, much is required. 

When an allegation of wrongdoing is made against any organization—business, government agency, nonprofit, church—or its personnel, does anyone think it sensible to leave the investigation of it in the hands of the organization's head? Should coal company executives decide whether to report or investigate mine safety failures, oil company people oil spills, pharmaceutical company CEOs unsafe drugs, bank presidents dodgy financial dealings, tobacco company officers the untimely deaths of millions? All of those people have powerful incentives to deny or minimize the harm alleged and to resist any oversight or encroachment on their autonomy. So do bishops, who may fear heavy financial penalties, loss of institutional and personal reputation, and failure in a perceived duty to protect their clerical "sons." And some of them may still believe that they are a law unto themselves within their dioceses, and that any sharing of authority would be a dereliction.

But keeping children safe is the whole community's responsibility. Bishops should seek out and welcome the knowledge, expertise, and independence that can be found in parents' groups, school boards, charitable organizations, bar associations, medical societies, and elsewhere. People want to help.


You say, "From those to whom much is given, much is required."

To be sure, Cardinal George has been given a title and authority in the church.

However, in the first part of your message, you seem to stress that he has NOT been given certain talents.

In light of your own claims about him, just how much can reasonably be expected of him?

Hi Thomas,

I agree with John Prior, above. We all have a responsibility. But I have no inclination to let Cardinal George off the hook because his egotistical approach gets in the way of seeing the facts straight on and doing what is necessary to respond to them. My comment was in response to Jesse's word, "integrity." I don't think the issue is integrity, frankly. It really is a problem of thinking you are always right, and therefore not taking in what other people need from you or say to you -- which you do need to hear.

It's not all the fault of the person, either. We have reinforced such problems in our clerical system, by giving a great deal of authority to some men who have a weakness in this area, making them rulers over the laity but not responsible to them in any way that might serve to chasten their ego. They are quite anxious about the people "above" them, i.e. Roman authorities, but have a hard time really taking in anything from below. Ask me if I am surprised that the results are as shown and I'll tell you no. But yes, I do expect better, because the office is for the good of the people of God.

We rightfully expect better. People deserve better.


I think Cardinal George's resignation ill be accepted by March 1.

Grant: Somebody else has already mentioned that Minnesota Public Radio has posted a fine and lengthy article recently about Archbishop Nienstedt. I think you'd like it.

In addition, you'd probably be interested in Robin Washington's fine article "Priest files [from the Chicago dump of priest files] may lead to reopening of Wisconson sex abuse case" in the Duluth News Tribune, dated Jan. 26, 2014.

Robin Washington is the editor of the DNT. Before he took that post, he worked in Boston and covered the priest sex-abuse scandal there.

Thank you, Grant.

On the recommendation of a board in the Boise Diocese, Bishop Michael Driscoll suspended a old priest for thirty days because an influential parishioner did not like the way the priest "carressed" his altar server son's hand during the community recitation of the Our Father. All this would be easier for priests to take if one bishop had resigned because of his role in the sex abuse scandal.

On the recommendation of a board in the Boise Diocese, Bishop Michael Driscoll suspended a old priest for thirty days because an influential parishioner did not like the way the priest "carressed" his altar server son's hand during the community recitation of the Our Father. All this would be easier for priests to take if one bishop had resigned because of his role in the sex abuse scandal.

I obviously have no idea about that "caress" or the power of an indiivdual parishoner, but the residual tragedy of this whole scandal is the incredible caution and "de-touchification" that will afflict the way priests relate to youth - and others! The truly innocent hair tousling, supportive arm around the shoulder, hand touch in a moment of anxiety and even "sideways hug" are all going or gone and all will be poorer for this. I don't have a sugestion or solution, but still find it sad to see clerics afraid to touch because of these abuses.

Bill,  I am a physician. I have met many who have been sexually abused by priests. I too was sexually assaulted by a Carmelite priest when I was a young doctor in Dublin. 

Sadly, Pope Francis is no better than the rest of them, with the exception of the Archbishop of Dublin in Ireland, Dr Diarmuid Martin. Archbishop D. Martin listened to my story, referred my case directly to the police, they referred it to the sexual crimes unit in Dublin, and the priest who sexually assaulted me has been removed from ministry. The police and civil law must investigate these crimes.

Pope Francis right now is protecting his Archbishop Wesolowski from returning to his homeland to face charges of sexually abusing young boys there, and from returning to the Dominican Republic to face charges of sexually abusing young boys there, where he was the papal nuncio. The pope is claiming diplomatic immunity. The pope shows no care for the young boys in both countries who have been sexually abused by his archbishop.

Jesus demanded that the innocence of children be protected. The policies in the Vatican for centuries have been secrecy, denial of the truth of clergy sexual abuse, lies, protection of the predator clergy, and re-victimization of the victims. 

No, Bill. Pope Francis is not willing to reign in these "monsters", instead he will protect them and himself from accountability, unless we withdraw the state status of the Vatican and withdraw diplomatic immunity from the Vatican and Holy See.

Sincerely,   Dr Rosemary Eileen McHugh, Chicago


I totally agree with you Jerry, that Pope Francis is more interested in protecting his predator priests than in protecting the innocence of children, as is being shown at present where he is protecting his Archbishop Wesolowski from returning to his homeland of Poland and to the Dominican Republic, where he has been papal nuncio, to face charges of sexually abusing young boys in both countries. Pope Francis shows no concern for the boys in both countries who have been sexually abused. He even has the arrogance to escape accountability by claiming diplomatic immunity, which needs to be withdrawn from the Vatican and the Holy See, as well as putting an end to the Vatican being a state.

David, Canon Law can always be changed by the Pope. He is his own law, unfortunately. Anyway, it needs to be civil and international law that the Vatican and Holy See must be under, not Canon Law, in the REAL WORLD.

I think Rita's right about the problem with Cardinal George's approach to leadership. And it probably is widely shared by his colleagues. What gave him an edge in influencing them may in part have been his willingness to press for his agenda boldly-- if somewhat ruthlessly. Too many of his fellow bishops seem so paralyzed by their "upward gaze" that they fear, more than anything else, being on the "wrong" side of an issue, as they imagine it to be seen from above. That gives a forceful leader with the same mindset quite a nice edge. Next time anyone watches the Bishops in action at one of their televised meetings, check out their body language --as well as what they say and whether they dare say anything at all.  

Grant, I warmly thank you for your thorough and clear account of the facts about the role of Cardinal George and the church, in regard to the many cover-ups of clergy sexual abuse of innocent children in the Archdiocese of Chicago over many years. It is very sad that Cardinal George and Pope Francis dare to claim transparency and accountability, since neither qualities have been true of the church for centuries, in regard to the sexual abuse of innocent children and vulnerable adults by clergy.

Sadly, Cardinal George, and others in the hierarchy worldwide, have been faithful to their obedience to the popes and the policies in the Vatican in Rome, which for centuries have been of secrecy and denial of the truth of clergy sexual abuse, protection of the predator clergy from accountability, and re-victimization of the victims.

I am a cradle Catholic and a physician. I have known many good priests and nuns. However, it is not a healthy lifestyle, in my view, and the fact that they promise obedience causes them to be stunted in my view, as well as kept psychosexually immature.

The only member of the hierarchy, in my experience, who is handling the clergy sexual abuse scandal, in a way that I believe Jesus would do, is the Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Diarmuid Martin. He listened to my story of having been sexually assaulted by a Carmelite priest when I was a young doctor in Ireland. He referred my case immediately to the police. It was then sent to the Sexual Crimes Unit in Dublin. The priest has been removed from ministry and I am getting reports regularly from Ireland on how he is being monitored. To learn more about the Archbishop of Dublin, please google the "60 Minute" interview of the Archbishop by Bob Simon on video on YouTube and on CBS.

To put an end to the cover-up of clergy sexual abuse, the police and civil law have to be called on immediately by parents and teachers to do the investigation of any accusations. The church cannot be trusted to investigate its own crimes and its own criminals. Sadly, that is what Pope Francis wants to continue to do and to be his own law. How wrong-headed is that?

Jesus said the truth will set us free. In order for Pope Francis to show some integrity, he needs to give all files of cases of clergy sexual abuse in the Vatican and elsewhere to civil authorities to investigate and prosecute as needed.

Also, the Vatican is only a small piece of land within the city of Rome. State status must be withdrawn from the Vatican and the Holy See and diplomatic immunity, which is being so abused by the church, must be withdrawn. The Catholic Church is just a church and does not deserve the power that it has been given by world governments. That power needs to be taken from it. Only then will the church leaders come down to earth and be forced to protect the innocence of children, as Jesus commanded them to do.

@ Dr. Rosemary McHugh:  Thank you for bravely sharing your story of your assault and abuse.  As a clinician who has dealt with many survivors of sexual assault - and served on the SF archdiocesean review board investigating allegations of sexual predation by priests, I know how important it is for survivors to hear real life narratives from other survivors who have somehow found the way to transcended their abuse.  You have my utmost respect

RE Diarmuid Martin:  I think you're right about him having adopted the appropriate stance for a hierarch and priest toward both survivors and perpetrators.  How I wish there were more of Diarmuid Martin's in the Catholic priesthood!?!

I find it very curious that when Papa Francesco was recently passing around new cardinal "red hats" Martin was not invited into that exclusive club.  What is the veiled message coming out of the Vatican?  

Maybe this is not a bad thing because Martin will be more free to continue to speak out in support of survivors in Ireland.  However, I believe that Bergoglio missed a real opportunity to send an unambiguous signal - especially to the hierarchs - that the Catholic Church's response to the serial rape and sodomy of children by priests is now under new management.

Perhaps we are seeing the political limits that constrain the new pope given the corrupt hierarchy that surrounds him?  That elected him less than a year ago?  

Or more sinisterly, perhaps this papacy is hoping to finesse this issue with sympathetic sounding pronouncements and hierarchial conference meetings where senior clerics make more angelic noises, rather than substantive changes in policy that would make children, indeed all of us, safer in the Catholic Church from the sexual predation and exploitation by priests and bishops?

We'll see ...

Jim J. --

Yes, we have yet to see substantive action by Pope Francis against any individual enabling bishops.  He does seem to be making preparations for changing the bureaucratic structure for handling such cases, but no actual decisions about individual bishops have been made.  

I'm still giving Francis the benefit of the doubt because his M. O. generally seems to be a very deliberate, a highly structured process of gathering data, then initiating new forms for bureaucratic action. I really don't expect anything substantive from him until after the Synod on the family in October. The problem of sexual abuse of children does come under that heading, I think, and he has asked for input from *both* the bishops and the laity.  Plus he already has the commission on abuse doing their thing.  But if nothing happens by December I will have to agree with Dr. McHugh -- he either still doesn't see the full depth of the scandal or he can't bring himself to think differently about his brother bishops.  

I'm still convinced he's a very, very good man, but I don't know yet about his wisdom.  Even good people sometimes fool themselves in extraordinary ways.  

I especially like Diarmuid Martin too, and found this past interview with him on 60 Minutes about clergy sex abuse very touching ...

I was sexually abused as a kid too - not by a priest but by a family member - and that's probably why the subject of clergy sex abuse bothers me so much.  I'm disappointed in what Francis has done on this so far.

To put an end to the cover-up of clergy sexual abuse, the police and civil law have to be called on immediately by parents and teachers to do the investigation of any accusations. The church cannot be trusted to investigate its own crimes and its own criminals.

Parents, teachers and anyone who witnesses or learns of abuse by any employee or minister of the church should contact both the civil authorities and the appropriate diocesan department immediately.  Teachers must contact civil authorities in any case, but so should anyone who is aware of abuse.  I agree that the church has, at best a mixed track record in responding to reports.  But only the church can remove its employees and ministers immediately from positions of abuse.  Civil investigations can drag on for months, they may be dropped, and the relationship between civil authorities and church authorities may or may not be cooperative.  Reporting to civil authorities but not church authorities runs the risk of abusive employees/ministers being left in place.  

If reporting to church authorities doesn't cause the immediate removal of the abuser from a position where s/he can perpetrate harm, then there are ways the pressure can be escalated.  Be committed to doing what needs to be done to hold the church accountable.  


Re:  Abp. Martin not being made a cardinal.  From what I have read, until Sean Brady is too old to vote or is dead, the only cardinal for Ireland will remain Brady.

What that has any sway in who Francis makes a cardinal in the Republic (Brady is in Northern Ireland) is beyond me, but, then, 99% of what happens in the arcane happenings of the Vatican and structural Catholicism is beyond me anyway.

" --- he has asked for input from *both* the bishops and the laity."

I predict that:

  1. we will never know if any of this input was even considered.
  2. there will be no summary report of what the input revealed, either on a worldwide or other basis.
  3. we will never know what the US bishops said by and to whom.
  4. the laity will continue to be treated as a mute appendage by the hierarchy (all the way up the line) until there is a DEMAND for change.


Jim Jenkins et alii - IMO, Michael Sean Winters has this correct:



- the pope is placing a great deal of emphasis on synodality, so this is itself a hopeful move.  (if this is true and with Brady in place currently, he will need to look to folks such as Martin to be the episcopal conwho currently leads that congregation)

- in reference to another current curial Polish cardinal, he says:  "....he  is almost universally considered incompetent. (not saying this about Brady but he has sank in trust and authority in Ireland)   He is also 74. So to remove him now would humiliate him and earn the Holy Father an enemy deeply plugged into the Polish mafia that John Paul II left sprinkled throughout the Curia. (Is Ireland's episcopal/clerical ranks any different?)  Better to wait until next year when +Grocholewski can retire in the normal course of events. The word for this kind of decision-making is the same word that a Latin American bishop used to describe Pope Francis to me the evening of his election: "astute." If the pope had passed over the four men in the Curia who will become cardinals next month, I suspect that would not be astute.ference heads in various countries/regions

I tend to agree with Ann about granting Francis some benefit of the doubt--for now.  It seems to be that his decision to start a separate commission on sex abuse outside of the current curia offices is a very good sign for some potential movement on this.  And unlike Dr. McHugh, I actually find several hopeful features in the situation with Archbishop Wesolowski.  It seems that extradition has not, in fact, been denied as--according to the Vatican, at least--it was never requested. What appears to have happened (from the news reports I've read) is that Polish prosecutors asked the Warsaw nunciature for information on the Archbishop's legal status and were told that he has immunity and that the Vatican doesn't extradite. What I find interesting is that when the Vatican spokespriest was asked about the Warsaw nunciature's interpretation of the law, he refused to comment.  This makes me wonder if there isn't some re-thinking of what should be done in the instance in Rome.

More importantly though, as John Allen reported last week, Wesolowski is facing criminal prosecution in the Vatican.  This has the potential--only potential thus far though--to be very important.  IF he is actually prosecuted; IF that trial is public and seen to be both fair and thorough; IF he is given appropriate sentence should he be convicted; and IF the pope doesn't pardon him or grant him clemency, I think that could be a very important precedent.  A lot of ifs, and I'd personally rather see him stand trial in the Dominican Republic where the crimes took place, but also not nothing either.  I'm quite a skeptic about the papacy in general and took much longer than most to warm up to Francis, but there's at least the potential here for some very important developments, I think.  


Per Bill deHaas comment:

First of all, I think that if you checked MSW's clothes closet you find that everything in his wardrobe has clerical red piping on it.  As my sainted sixth-grade teacher, Sister Mary Adelaide would say, “he lusts after the oils.”  Consider the source.

As far as curial and hierarchal reforms by our Jesuit pope are concerned, it is not logical to assume that Papa Francesco would adopt policies and/or pastoral positions that most of the men – the very men who just elected him pope less than a year ago – consider subversive.  Not going to happen.

Francesco, as much as I admire his spirit of humility, is still a politician – and apparently a very good one at that - in the world’s oldest all-male feudal oligarchy.  Internal church politics will continue to confine the degrees of freedom within which Francesco can operate – especially in the Vatican. 

We’ll see a lot of days in this papacy of one step forward, two steps back – regrettably.  Bergoglio has been pope for almost a year and we still have not seen any concerted action to heal the wounds of the rape and sodomy of children by priests. [Did you see that lame appearance of the two prelates before the UN's childrens panel?]  Women are still relegated to the back of the church’s bus.

You can’t rise to the rank of cardinal-archbishop of Buenos Aires - especially while the Polish prince and the Panzer pope reigned from the Apostolic Palace – without the support of the most reactionary ideologues [read, Ratzinger].  How can we now expect Francesco to turn his back on them so easily, so soon after they gave him the keys of the kingdom?

This is why I believe that if real reform and renewal will come to the Catholic Church it will not originate from any hierarch.  Francesco can only enable us, seek to ignite that necessary spark – much like Papa Giovanni did five decades ago.

If real reform and renewal is to really take hold of the Catholic Church, only the PEOPLE have the capacity to rescue the church from the abyss into which the hierarchs have driven the church.  Hence my mantra: LET THE PEOPLE DECIDE!

Andy Buechel - thanks for the link to that John Allen article.  Everything in it caused my heart to rejoice.  I didn't know the Vatican even had a criminal court.  Is there a Vatican jail?

A comment provided to me by someone who is in Rome, well place (not a cleric) and a witness to the goings on for quite a few years now:

" ...  respond(ing) to your other email regarding Tom Reese's piece on Francis' first big mistake. Well, I agree it would be better to ditch curia bishops and cardinals, but -- for once! -- I also agree, to an extent, with Winters: it would be suicide if he did everything all at once. 

I think Francis knows what he wants, but he wants all significant reforms to come from him AND a wider body of bishops -- his C8? the Synod? 

Most people still cannot get their heads round the fact that his "revolution" is in the governing STRUCTURE. He's laying the foundation for synodal governance. In that model popes shall not act as dictators. It will be a long road there, but Francis -- I believe -- is putting down an unshakeable foundation for it."

I suspect that my source is not speaking off the top of her/his head but, rather, based on observation, contacts and pretty good analytical skills.



@ Jim McCrea 1/28/14 - 3:07 PM:  Agreed!


I have squandered my resistance for a pocketful of mumbles, such are promises
All lies and jest, still a man hears what he wants to hear
And disregards the rest, hmmmm

Cardinal By George.........he listens to "The Boxer" by Simon and Garfunkel every morning; it's the only way he can face his "archdiocesan reality"

It is also helpful that the Cardinal has invested in the highest-strength prescription rose-colored the world of George and McCormack, everything fits together quite nicely, don't you know!

Can't wait for the big retirement celebration for Cardinal George, subsidized by hard-working Chicago Catholics.........................

Two items:

- from Thomas Doyle -

- archdiocese just settled one McCormack complaint for almost $3.2mil.  Most of us would be fired if we had made an error even 1/100th of this.  Know of many small business owners who declared bankruptcy with an error less than this.And this is only one victim's settlement.

Highlights from Doyle:

"On January 28, 2006 the review board sent the Cardinal a letter.  Portions of it tell the real story.  “The media statements that the board was unable to reach a decision because they did not have access to the alleged victim or his mother (Sun Times, January 25, 2006), and ‘after the family made the accusation in August, the Archdiocese’s Office of Professional responsibility referred the allegation to the Independent Review Board (Tribune, January 24, 2006), imply that we as a board chose not to act.  Clearly this is not the case.”


          Contrary to what the Cardinal would like people to believe, the review board made clear recommendations:  “These included removing Rev. McCormack from St. Agatha’s and suspending him from ministry pending further criminal investigation.”

The review board’s letter tells what really happened:  “Our recommendations were presented to you on October 17, 2005….You chose not to act on them, and now we have a situation that reflects very poorly, and unfairly, on the board.”  As to George’s excuse that he thought the investigation was incomplete, the review board saw it much differently:  “We resent the media implication that the Professional Review Board did not find Rev. Daniel McCormack to be a threat to the safety of children.  These reports do not accurately reflect the situation, and we take offense at the lack of truth telling.”


I always have a hard time expressing this, but I think I understand why Cardinal George acted as he did years ago.  It doesn't mean I agree with it in any way.  But that was the standard practice.  It was wrong but it was what virtually every Cardinal, Archbishop and Bishop in the church did, and frankly what many non-Catholic denominations did as well.  It would have taken a great deal of courage for a Cardinal to have taken any other actions.  Our hierarchy has been accused of many things.  An abundance of courage has never been one of them, at least in my lifetime.  I also remember talking with a friend who is on his church's vestry committee during the Boston scandal.  He related that they had a minister who had assaulted a boy.  They worked out a deal to have him leave for a mission post in Central America.  His reasoning, which I think was faulty, was that it would be too much of a shock to the congregation to report him to the police and bring that kind of scandal to the church. It is the same "avoid causing scandal to the simple faithful" that we heard from some bishops when this scandal first broke.   I have no doubt that more than a few bishops actually believed that calling the authorities on a priest would be a "scandal to the simple faithful." And that they were doing the right thing.   They were wrong, as my friend now admits he was wrong.  But that was how they were trained and that was the generally accepted practice, that was how priests of the day, and bishops of the day were socialized.  But over the last decade, to fail to fulfill your responsibilities given what we know today, is criminal. 

I can't buy the "simple faithful" defense. Even in 1950, and probably for centuries before that, ordinary people knew that in any large group, there will always be some with serious faults and at least a few total misfits. If a priest back then had physically assaulted a boy and beaten him unconscious, it would certainly have been shocking, but the police would have been summoned immediately. The difference is that sexual abuse doesn't leave obvious exterior marks, and it's done in secret to people who can often be intimidated into remaining silent. Also, the perpetrators may in all other respects be very agreeable people.

What has truly scandalized the faithful is the response of bishops. I have grave doubts that many of them honestly believed they were doing the right thing.  But if they did, the adjective "simple" belongs more to them than to those they were supposed to serve and protect.

From the article link above in response to the *usual didn't know routine* especially as used by Geroge:

"He was ordained bishop in 1990 and served first as bishop of Yakima WA and then as archbishop of Portland OR.   Both Portland and Yakima had their share of sexual abuse problems during George’s time.  Equally important, he was a member of the U.S. bishops Conference during the years they started to at least talk about clerical sexual abuse.  During those years George and his fellow bishops received numerous documents from the conference headquarters that provided detailed information about clergy sexual abuse and the serious risks it posed the Church.  He was also present, at least presumably, when a variety of outside experts addressed the assembled bishops on the very serious nature of sexual abuse of children.  These included Fr. Canice Connors, at the time President of St. Luke Institute; Dr. Fred Berlin, Johns Hopkins University, on diagnostic concepts, treatment and ethical considerations; Dr. Frank Valcour, psychiatrist at St. Luke Institute on expectations of treatment; Bishop Harry Flynn on care of victims; Jesuit psychiatrist James Gill on priests, sex and power and Fr. Steve Rossetti on the parish as victim.  During this period Pope John Paul II addressed his first public communication of clergy sex abuse to the U.S. bishops and that same year, 1993, the bishops established their first committee to deal with the problem.  The claim voiced by the Cardinal and his auxiliary, Francis Kane, that “had they known then what they know now they would have handled the allegations differently,”has become a mantra for bishops when they are confronted with their disastrous actions.  It’s also so worn out that one would think the conference spin-doctors would come up with a fresh excuse."

Bill deHass,

I don't think it really is a case of "if we had know then what we know now we'd have acted differently."  I think they acted the way they acted, not only in Chicago but in Boston and Dublin and you name the diocese, precisely because that was the way they were trained and socialized to act.  Protect the Church and avoid scandal at all costs was their mantra.  I remember my parents having a friendship with a priest whose nephew was one of the worst abusers in the country.  When word came out, my mother mentioned that Fr. X their friend would often ask for prayers for his nephew who had some unnamed struggle with his vocation.  My parents' friend held various fairly high ranking offices in their archdiocese.  So he clealry knew what his nephew was up to and likely protected him.  It was clear later that the Cardinal and others knew as well.  When the news broke, my mother commented that she had never in a million years thought he abused boys.  She always assumed that his problem was with "the drink."  The bottom line is that the hierachy and those around them clearly knew what they know now.  That certain priest were abusing children.  But htye were of the opinon that avoiding scandal was priority #1. Anbd that came from everything they had learned.  The way they were socialized from the Seminary to their first assignments to their first pastorships to the episcopacy.  As i said above, it would have required great courage to have broken with that line of thinking.  that wasn't something that was part of the process.

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