The Archdiocese of Chicago released internal documents on Tuesday revealing its active role in concealing the sexual abuse of children by clergy for decades. The documents show the lengths taken to protect priests, with complete disregard for the safety and well-being of abused children or those at risk.
“It’s a big victory for these 40 brave men and women who had the courage to step forward, seek justice and file lawsuits, and to endure 8 years of needless delay from the archdiocese of Chicago,” said David Clohessy, the Executive Director of the Chicago-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP). “Frankly it’s a victory for every survivor, for those who desperately want to see the names of those who committed and those who concealed child sex crimes.”
The 6,000 pages of internal communications, meeting schedules where allegations were discussed, testimony, and letters were released through settlements between attorneys for the victims and the archdiocese. They reveal that leaders in the archdiocese, including the late Cardinal John Cody, the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, and the current Cardinal Francis George, moved priests to different parishes when they were accused of abuse to protect them. They would ask other priests to monitor their behavior around children, but they would not inform the police. Prosecution was rarely pursued because of a fear of losing parishioners or potential priests, damaging their image, and in one case, because the priest “sounded repentant,” according to Al Jazeera.
“The documents “reflect [a] systematic, ongoing, decades-long continuous pattern of conscious choices by top officials of the archdiocese from Cardinal Cody to Bernardin to Cardinal George,” attorney Jeff Anderson told the Chicago Sun-Times. Anderson and another attorney Marc Pearlman represented over 50 victims and negotiated the release of the documents. “Blame is also to be shared by bishops, members of the clergy and other top officials, each of whom … became aware of … reports that priests were offending children, and they made intentional and conscious choices to conceal that, to protect the priests, protect the reputation of the archdiocese and in effect conceal the crime and give safe harbor to the offender.”
The documents reveal information about only 30 of the 65 clergy who the Chicago archdiocese says have been accused of child sexual abuse. Documents about the Vatican’s involvement were not included.
Globally, thousands more priests have been accused of child sexual abuse but protected from any repercussions. In the US alone between 1950 and 2010, 6,100 priests were accused of abuse, leading to an estimated 100,000 victims, according to Barbara Blaine, President of SNAP.
The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) held a hearing last week for the Vatican to address global child sexual abuse by Catholic clergy and their role in protecting perpetrators, but it’s leaders have yet to take real responsibility for their involvement.
Media Resources: Jeff Anderson and Associates PA; Chicago Tribune 1/21/14; Chicago Sun-Times 1/22/14; Al Jazeera America 1/21/14; SNAP 1/16/14