For immediate release: Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2013
Child sex abuse and cover up lawsuits involving eight Chicago predator priests have been settled. They are Father Robert Mayer, Father Robert Becker, Father Ralph Strand, Father Ken Ruge, Father Joseph Fitzharris, Father Robert Stepek, Father Marion Snieg and Father Daniel McCormack.
We suspect that much of the attention on this settlement will be on Fr. McCormack, Illinois’ most high profile serial predator priest. While McCormack is behind bars, several of these child molesting clerics are walking free, likely living near unsuspecting neighbors or working among unsuspecting colleagues or volunteering at unsuspecting non-profits and perhaps even molesting unsuspecting relatives’ children.
For the safety of kids these predators belong behind bars. But they won’t get there unless people speak up.
Fr. Ruge, Fr. Becker and Fr. Snieg are deceased. But we believe it’s still possible that criminal charges might be filed against Fr. Stepek, Fr. Fitzharris, Fr. Mayer, and Fr. Strand or against their supervisors or co-workers who may have obstructed justice, destroyed evidence, intimidated victims, threatened whistleblowers, refused to report suspected abuse to authorities or committed other crimes.
But again, people who saw, suspected or suffered abuse and cover up must step forward.
Why do so many assume that elderly child molesters have somehow magically stopped molesting? And why do so many assume that child molesters who hurt kids in the 1980s or 1990s can’t be investigated and prosecuted for more recent child sex crimes?
And why do so many police and prosecutors focus solely on those who commit heinous child sex crimes and largely ignore those who conceal – and thus enable – heinous child sex crimes? There are now 120 publicly accused Chicago area child molesting Catholic clerics. (See BishopAccountability.org)
It’s tragic that so few of them have been criminally prosecuted. And it’s inconceivable to us that not a single current or former Catholic official can be prosecuted for ignoring or concealing their crimes.
Look at what just happened in Steubenville Ohio. Two rapists who assaulted a high school girl were convicted. But determined law enforcement officials dug deeper and worked harder. They uncovered crimes against several “enablers” – school officials who ignored or helped hide the crimes.
And yesterday, criminal charges were filed against four Steubenville school officials who acted improperly.
We are convinced that similar charges could and should be brought here against Catholic officials. It might be tampering with evidence, endangering children or other charges.
But again, nothing happens if people with information or suspicions stay quiet.
We commend the brave individuals who brought these lawsuits against the Chicago Catholic archdiocese and these eight predator priests. We applaud their courage and their persistence. It’s admirable that they “stayed the course” despite years of delay by Catholic officials and lawyers.
We hope these settlements bring some peace and closure to those who have been so severely hurt by child molesting clerics and by callous church officials. We are confident that these lawsuits have exposed dangerous men and protected vulnerable kids. These victims should be proud of themselves.
But we urge these victims – and every victim – to stay in therapy, keep attending support group meetings, remain committed to 12 step programs and to realize that no external event – no conviction, no defrocking, no settlement, no prison term – can suddenly erase decades of damage. Ultimately, we must heal ourselves.
And ultimately, each of us who has suspicions about or knowledge of child sex crimes must call law enforcement officials, not Catholic church officials, if we are to safeguard children.