February 27, 2014

As Reported

Some national media have published comments about Cardinal George’s referencing Cardinal Bernardin with regard to Daniel McCormack that are incorrect.

Fact Check

  • Neither Cardinal George nor any of his predecessors, particularly Cardinal Bernardin, would knowingly ordain a pedophile. The letter to parishioners (1/12/14) simply sets out the truth that McCormack hid his actions for many years from his peers, his superiors and his parishioners, who respected and trusted him. The Cardinal has repeatedly and publicly accepted responsibility for the McCormack tragedy. In this letter, http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0112/cardinal.aspx, he again apologizes for the crime and sin of child sexual abuse within the Church.

February 11, 2014

Common Errors and Inaccuracies
in Document Release Media Coverage

There has been considerable media coverage since January 21, 2014 regarding the public release of documents relating to 30 Archdiocesan priests accused of abusing minors at various times during the last half century. Although the vast majority of the coverage has been fair and balanced, there have been some common errors and inaccuracies that need to be corrected and clarified.

As Reported

The Archdiocese intentionally concealed crimes and protected priests who were accused of sexual abuse by moving them to different parishes putting children at risk.

Fact Check

  • The Archdiocese acknowledges that its leaders made some decisions decades ago that are now difficult to justify. They made those decisions in accordance with the prevailing knowledge at the time. In the past 40 years, society has evolved in dealing with matters related to abuse. Our understanding of and response to domestic violence, sexual harassment, date rape, and clerical sexual abuse have undergone significant change and so has the Archdiocese of Chicago. While we complied with the reporting laws in place at the time, the Church and its leaders have acknowledged repeatedly that they wished they had done more and done it sooner, but now are working hard to regain trust, to reach out to victims and their families, and to make certain that all children and youth are protected.

As Reported

Cardinal George tried to get Norbert Maday released early from a Wisconsin prison, where he was serving time after a 1994 conviction for molesting two boys.

Fact Check

  • Cardinal George never wrote a letter to parole authorities asking for Maday’s early release.

    After becoming aware of additional information about Norbert Maday the Cardinal sent a letter to the prison parole authorities in Wisconsin asking them to keep Maday incarcerated.

As Reported

After Maday’s criminal conviction and incarceration, the Archdiocese continued to assist Maday by paying his legal fees and increasing his monthly stipend.

Fact Check

  • Prior to his laicization, Maday received a stipend while in prison as is required by canon law. The stipend was adjusted over the years depending on the type of institution he was in. When he was in a private prison his stipend was increased to cover additional personal expenses charged to him by the for-profit prison.

    Maday is laicized now, so he is not being paid by the Archdiocese.

As Reported

The Archdiocese was under a court-order or was forced to release the documents.

Fact Check

  • The Archdiocese released the documents as part of a mediation agreement signed in 2006. Lawyers for the victims, priests and the Archdiocese culled through the documents to remove anything that would violate the privacy of victims.

As Reported

The Archdiocese chose not to include religious order priests in the document release and is not making the records of religious order priests available.

Fact Check

  • The Archdiocese of Chicago does not have access to the personnel files of religious order priests. Requests for such information should be addressed to the applicable religious order.

As Reported

The Archdiocese released documents related to less than half of the known 65 priest offenders.

Fact Check

  • The Archdiocese is voluntarily working to release the additional documents pertaining to the other 35 priests.

As Reported

Of the 30 priests, only two have been laicized.

Fact Check

  • Of the 30 priests all but one is either deceased or laicized. None is in active ministry.

As Reported

Many accused priests were removed from their parishes and given monitoring restrictions but were not handed directly to local law enforcement.

Fact Check

  • All of these cases were reported to civil authorities.

As Reported

Cardinal George decided against removing Joseph Bennett from the ministry over the recommendation of the Review Board.

Fact Check

  • Cardinal George did not decide against removing Father Bennett. Fr. Bennett was removed after Cardinal George reviewed the facts of the case including the Review Board’s recommendation.

As Reported

The case of Kenneth Brigham was not handled properly by the Cardinal.

Fact Check

  • The first allegation against Kenneth Brigham came forward in 1994. At that time it was considered by the Review Board and deemed unsubstantiated. The second allegation came forward after Brigham had passed away, and therefore the Review Board did not consider the matter. The Archdiocese followed the necessary procedures in reporting all allegations regarding Brigham.

As Reported

This is the first time the Archdiocese is making the names of these priests publicly known.

Fact Check

  • Almost all of the 30 priests included in this document release have been listed on the Archdiocese’s website for many years. The only priests from the list of 30 not listed on the site were those accused after their deaths and were therefore not a threat to the community and unable to respond to the accusation.

As Reported

Key information was removed from the documents in an effort to protect the priests and their supervisors.

Fact Check

  • Some portions of the documents were redacted to comply with legal restrictions about privacy of medical and mental health information and to protect the innocent. Nothing is redacted to conceal the identity of the priests or their supervisors.

As Reported

Most of the 30 priests were never prosecuted, or only two of the 30 priests were prosecuted.

Fact Check

  • The average length between an incident of abuse and reporting the abuse is more than 20 years. While accusations were reported to civil authorities, in most cases the statute of limitations had been exceeded and no prosecution occurred. The law has changed in Illinois and there is no statute of limitations regarding new cases of sexual abuse/crimes.

As Reported

Documents were delivered to Jeff Anderson in a disorganized and disheveled state.

Fact Check

  • The documents were delivered to Jeff Anderson on a DVD, organized by priest with documents listed in the order in which they were reviewed by attorneys for claimants and the Archdiocese. A key was provided to help ensure ease of accessing documents. Since Mr. Anderson’s associates had worked on the documents for years, they were familiar with them and the information contained therein. Nothing was delivered in the file boxes displayed in Jeff Anderson’s news conference.

As Reported

Some media have reported quotes and comments made by representatives of SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) about Cardinal George’s referencing Cardinal Bernardin with regard to Daniel McCormack that are incorrect. 

Fact Check

  • Neither Cardinal George nor any of his predecessors, particularly Cardinal Bernardin, would knowingly ordain a pedophile. The letter to parishioners (1/12/14) simply sets out the truth that McCormack hid his actions for many years from his peers, his superiors and his parishioners, who respected and trusted him. The Cardinal has repeatedly and publicly accepted responsibility for the McCormack tragedy. In this letter, http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0112/cardinal.aspx, he again apologizes for the crime and sin of child sexual abuse within the Church.

The Archdiocese of Chicago would like to respond to several statements made during the November 26, 2013 press conference held by attorneys Jeff Anderson and Marc Pearlman, and founder and president of SNAP Barbara Blaine.

As Reported

“We believe the Archdiocese has a responsibility to disclose the whereabouts of these individuals. … We believe that they [the Archdiocese] have the resources to identify and find that out, and most of them are still receiving payments from the Archdiocese and are on the payroll, and their whereabouts should be made known.

Fact Check

  • No priests who have resigned from the priesthood or have been laicized are still on the payroll of the Archdiocese. Some may have pensions that have vested and therefore receive benefits from their pension. The Archdiocese has identified and listed on its website for many years the names of priests with substantiated allegations of abuse.

As Reported

“We hear from survivors all the time, and I think that a question that should be asked of the Archdiocese, because they know. … I know there are victims who are hurting, and they allege that they were abused and they have told the Archdiocese officials and, are they still in ministry? I think that it’s fair to say that we should assume there are … I can’t give a number and a name, but…”

Fact Check

  • No priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago with even one substantiated allegation of abuse is currently in ministry.  It is immoral to keep all Catholic priests under a cloud of suspicion.  In recent years, our personnel files have been checked three times by the civil authorities. Every allegation that is brought forward is reported immediately to the civil authorities, and each priest has received mandated reporter training.  Each priest has undergone a criminal background check. All have received special VIRTUS training to recognize the signs of possible sexual abuse in minor children.  Priests are not permitted to be alone with a child, or to drive a car with a child without another adult being present.  They have received, both while in the seminary and since, extensive training on boundary violations.

    If Barbara Blaine has information about abuse of which the Archdiocese is unaware, the Archdiocese requests that she inform civil authorities and the Office for the Protection of Children and Youth immediately so that an investigation can be conducted.

As Reported

“No such [grand jury] investigation has happened in Illinois, the only information that has been disclosed has been voluntarily disclosed and so we don’t know the extent of the problem. I think it would be naïve to think that it’s any different here than any of those places…” [Philadelphia, Minnesota] “so I believe that if such an investigation [grand jury] were to occur here, similar results would be found.

Fact Check

  • There was a grand jury investigation in Illinois in 1992. The protocols that were put in place by the Archdiocese in 1992, including the formation of the Review Board which hears allegations against living priests, were the foundation of the Dallas Charter in 2002, so the Archdiocese of Chicago was a decade ahead of the rest of the country in terms of dealing with clergy sex abuse. Again, no priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago with even one substantiated allegation of abuse is currently in ministry.

As Reported

Some media have reported quotes and comments made by representatives of SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) about Fr. Robert A. Stepek that are incorrect.

Fact Check

  • Fr. Stepek is a priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago in good canonical standing in the Church. Fr. Stepek, who is now retired, does not have a ministerial assignment and his faculties to minister in the Archdiocese have been restricted.

    Fr. Stepek was not permanently suspended as has been stated by SNAP. The Vatican court was unable to find enough evidence to determine that Fr. Stepek had sexually abused a minor.

    The results of the Vatican decision regarding Fr. Stepek was announced on September 15, 2013 on the Archdiocesan website and in the next edition of The Catholic New World. The announcement was also published in the bulletin at the parish where Fr. Stepek served as pastor.

As Reported

Media reported that the Archdiocese reported a “special Vatican council” did not find sufficient evidence that Fr. Stepek sexually abused minors and that the “Vatican council” said Stepek engaged in behaviors inappropriate for a priest.

Fact Check

  • The Tribunals that heard the case in 1st and 2nd Instance were here in this country and staffed by American canonists.

    The appeal body is called an 'Apostolic Appeal Tribunal' because its decision has effect in Canon Law. When the governing document was issued in 2001 and revised slightly in 2010, it was decided that these cases would not go through the customary judicial process but receive special attention.

    The 1st Instance (Chicago) is always the local diocesan court. The 2nd Instance/Appeal Tribunal is identified by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) to do the work, but they use their own personnel and their decision is final.

As Reported

Some media reports on a legal suit, filed on September 4, 2013, and based on an allegation that former priest Daniel McCormack, abused a child ten years ago, incorrectly alleged that the Archdiocese of Chicago ignored reports over the years that McCormack may have been involved in abusing children.

Fact Check

  • This allegation is false.  The legal suit is being investigated and will be pursued legally, as usual.

As Reported

Incorrect comments appear online from time to time, suggesting that the Archdiocese of Chicago’s practice of reporting allegations of child sexual abuse to the civil authorities raises questions about its compliance with civil and church law.

Fact Check

  • In addition to the legal requirements of the Abused and Neglected Child Reporting Act, all allegations of child sexual abuse received by the Archdiocese of Chicago have been promptly reported to the civil authorities.  These reports are made by letter to the state’s attorney of the county in which the abuse is alleged to have occurred no matter how long ago.  This practice has been formalized in a written protocol with the State’s Attorneys of Lake and Cook Counties.

    The Archdiocese publishes a list on its website of Archdiocesan priests with substantiated allegations of sexual misconduct with minors at, www.archchicago.org/departments/ocair/report_032006/list.pdf .

As Reported

The Catholic Conference of Illinois issued a statement addressed to Gov. Quinn from the Illinois Bishops on November 2, 2011 regarding his public appearance at an event sponsored by an organization dedicated to electing
pro-abortion candidates. Print and broadcast media mistakenly reported that Cardinal George had taken issue with the recipient of an award to be given by the Governor at this event.

Fact Check

  • The November 2, 2011 statement of the Illinois Bishops was addressed to Governor Pat Quinn because his active involvement with Personal PAC publicly aligns him with a politically partisan organization dedicated to electing pro-abortion candidates to public office.  The statement from the six Bishops responsible for the Archdiocese of Chicago and the Dioceses of Rockford, Peoria, Belleville, Springfield and Joliet was addressed only to Gov. Quinn, not to the organization or the recipient of their award.  In fact, Cardinal George was not informed about the rape victim or her personal story of sexual assault. 

    The Cardinal deeply regrets that Ms. Goodman became the primary focus of the story because, “A rape victim demands all the respect and support that anybody can give.”  The Cardinal said, “As pastors of the Church, however, we cannot regret reminding the Governor of the great gap between his partisan public action and the moral teachings of the Catholic Church.  This inconsistency creates a moral problem for a Catholic believer and imposes a pastoral duty on Catholic Bishops to address the problem of personal complicity in moral evil.” 

    As a matter of public policy, the Bishops and many others argue that our present abortion laws are offensive to the common good of society.  The Bishops’ message to Gov. Quinn has not been retracted.

As Reported

After an interview with Cardinal George appeared in the Chicago Tribune on March 19, 2011, there have been a number of subsequent media reports and questions raised about Cardinal's George's retirement.

Fact Check

  • The Cardinal addressed the question of his tenure in the following letter published in the March 27, 2011 edition of the Catholic New World and the on-line version.

    Cardinal George's tenure

    I have been receiving questions about my retirement. What is a normal process governed by the canon law of the church has become the subject of public speculation here.

    Bishops, in accordance with church law, submit to the pope a letter of resignation from their pastoral responsibilities when they reach 75 years of age. I hope to do that on Jan. 16, 2012. The pope accepts the resignation and appoints a successor on his own timeline. Often, bishops remain in office for a year or so after their 75th birthday, if their health permits and their mental powers have not noticeably declined.

    Bishops who are cardinals of the Roman Church sometimes remain in office some years longer. This is because cardinals continue to serve in the Roman Curia and as electors of the pope until they are 80 years of age, and there should not be more than one papal elector in any particular diocese. We have never experienced this problem in Chicago, since all my predecessors died before they were 75. I am eager to be the first Archbishop of Chicago to retire!

    I am looking forward to meeting my successor. I pray for him every day and would encourage others to do the same.

    Francis Cardinal George, OMI
    Archbishop of Chicago

As Reported

The Voice of the Faithful (VOTF) asserted in a press release on October 11, 2010, that “In 2009, one in five institutions in the archdiocese still had a credibly accused priest in residence.”

Fact Check

  • This is a completely false claim.  There are no priests in ministry in the Archdiocese of Chicago that have an affirmed claim of sexual abuse of a minor against them. 

As Reported

In a press release on October 11, 2010, the Voice of the Faithful (VOTF) claimed  that 60% of the parishes and institutions had a credibly accused priest in residence at some time.

Fact Check

  • Based on the analysis of the data in the VOTF study, the 65 credibly accused Archdiocese of Chicago priests were in approximately 40% of the parishes during a period that spans almost 100 years.
  • The Archdiocese did not know that a priest was engaging in child sexual abuse when they were assigned because most allegations came forward decades later.

As Reported

The Voice of the Faithful (VOTF) asserted in a press release on October 11, 2010, that credibly accused priests tended to be assigned to African American communities.

Fact Check

  • This is clearly false and the VOTF study offers no research to support the statement.
  • Only 3 of the 13 zip codes mentioned in the VOTF study have high concentrations of African Americans.
  • The VOTF study does not include the corresponding zip-code information about the concentration of African Americans in the 1960s and 1970s when the majority of the abuse took place.
  • The Archdiocese did not know that a priest was engaging in child sexual abuse when they were assigned because most allegations came forward decades later.

As Reported

In a press release on October 11, 2010, the Voice of the Faithful (VOTF) claimed that credibly accused priests tended to be assigned to lower income communities.

Fact Check

  • This statement is not true and misleading.
  • The VOTF study’s data actually shows that about 61% of the assignments were in communities with income near or significantly above the average for Cook County.