Dear Cardinal George:
There are at least 112 publicly accused Chicago archdiocesan priests. A few are behind bars, some are deceased, but where are the rest?
Dozens of them could well be just like Fr. Carroll Howlin, the suspended Joliet priest who was exposed on Friday by the Chicago Tribune. They could well be living and working among unsuspecting families, neighbors, colleagues and children. And they could be sexually violating children now.
Why? Because you and your colleagues refuse to house, monitor, supervise and treat them.
One ousted Chicago area predator priest (Fr. Vincent Bryce) admitting molesting a child but now works in St. Louis on the edge of a Catholic college campus. In 2010, a credibly accused Texas predator priest (Fr. Frank Paduch) was found working in Berwyn across the street from a school. In 2003, a criminally convicted Delaware priest (Fr. Kenneth J. Martin) was found living in your home and working in the Chicago archdiocese. That same year, (Fr. John D. Murphy) was found working at the Shedd Aquarium.
So we’re talking about very real threats, not theoretical ones.
Fr. Howlin’s case may seem more egregious than many. As you read, Fr. Howlin was suspended after numerous abuse allegations against him surfaced. A pastor even produced document allegedly showing Howlin of depositing church donations in a personal bank account. Howlin supposedly used financial rewards to proposition impoverished teenage boys.
Here then is a priest who was accused of child sex crimes, suspended more than a decade ago and ordered to stay away from kids. Yet no church official ever checks on him, so he subsequently molests more children, continues in “ministry,” steals money, and deceives nuns.
Joliet Bishop Daniel Conlon is Fr. Howlin’s direct supervisor. But Conlon is also your peer, your neighbor and your underling.
You must take action, not just against Conlon, but in your own archdiocese. We strongly suspect that there are several, perhaps dozens, of “Fr. Howlins” on your payroll and in your church organizations and for whom you are directly responsible.
So today, we strongly urge you to
--publicly disclose and post on your website the whereabouts of every proven, admitted and credibly accused child molesting cleric who lives/lived or works/worked in your archdiocese (whether they’re in a religious order or not, are deceased or not, whether they’ve been convicted or not),
--then do everything you possibly can to insist that these offenders move to and stay in remote, secure, independently-run treatment centers so they’ll be kept away from kids and will get professional therapy,
--immediately, harshly and publicly denounce Conlon for his irresponsible actions, and
-- use your clout to get your colleague and neighbor and underling Bishop Conlon ousted from his post as head of the child sex committee of America’s bishop.
We understand that you can’t fire or discipline Conlon. But you can use your clout to help get him removed as chair of the US Bishops child sex abuse committee. You can use your enormous “bully pulpit” and public relations staff and hundreds of employees to harshly and publicly deplore Conlon’s callous and reckless conduct.
We understand that you and other Catholic officials have little control over pedophile priests once they’ve been defrocked. But you know that most ousted predator priests are still on the church payroll and therefore can be controlled by church officials. (Only a small percentage of child molesting clerics are ever fully defrocked, SNAP maintains.)
We understand that you could pretend to be powerless over Bishop Conlon like Conlon pretends to be powerless over Howlin. But you are the highest-ranking Catholic official in Illinois. You are the former president of the US Catholic Conference. You are among an elite group of some 100 prelates who comprise the church’s “College of Cardinals.” So you have far more influence than you claim to have.
We are confident you could get Conlon ousted. We are more confident that you should at least try.
Instead, we suspect, tragically, that you’ll do nothing. You’ll ignore this letter. You’ll feign impotence. You’ll claim no responsibility.
And kids will keep getting hurt, victims will be re-victimized and Catholics will be even further betrayed and disillusioned.
This sort of inaction, secrecy and hairsplitting is precisely what enabled thousands of priests, nuns, brothers, seminarians, bishops and other church workers to sexually violate perhaps hundreds of thousands of once trusting young girls and boys. It's precisely what enables hundreds of church officials to quietly move those predators to new places where they can molest again. And it's precisely what you and your brothers in the church hierarchy have publicly pledged, over and over again, to stop doing.
Yet most of you don't. As surely as day follows night, Catholic officials insist on keeping silent about clergy sex crimes and cover ups until someone else - victims, police, prosecutors, judges, journalists or litigants - forces your hand. And when your hand is forced, you insist on doing the absolute bare minimum steps your insurers, defense lawyers and public relations team advise: merely suspending credibly accused sex offender clergy from active parish ministry.
But you refuse to supervise and monitor and house them.
Bishops recruit, educate, ordain, hire, train, transfer and shield predator priests. Then, when the heat gets too hot, bishops often (but not always) belatedly suspend the predators and stop there. You and your peers most often refuse to house them in remote, secure, independently-run treatment centers so they can be kept away from kids and so that they can get professional therapy.
You can't undo the reckless, callous and deceitful actions of the past. But you can take steps right now to make kids safer. Please take those steps, Cardinal, right now.
We look forward to hearing from you.