For immediate release: Thursday, Jan. 22
Chicago’s top Catholic and Presbyterian officials are acting like cold-hearted CEOs, not spiritual shepherds, when it comes to the crimes of a serial child molesting cleric.
Seven new accusers have filed civil suits that include as defendants the Chicago Catholic Archdiocese and the Chicago Presbytery. These two religious institutions must take action now to aggressively find and help every single person who may have been sexually assaulted by Rev. Douglas Mason. (Mason reportedly sexually violated kids at Presbyterian churches and at St. Gregory the Great High School.)
Rev. Mason allegedly molested as recently as the 1990s. At least four of his accusers are in their 30s. A settlement was reached with four of his alleged victims in 2007. All of this strongly suggests that there may be dozens of other young men who were assaulted by Mason and who may be suffering in silence, shame and self-blame.
Catholic and Presbyterian officials have a simple choice: They can sit comfortably in their fancy offices, hiding behind expensive lawyers and using smart public relations professionals to duck, dodge and deny. Or they can get out into local churches, act like real shepherds, and seek out young men who may have suffered horrific childhood trauma and now may be trying to numb their continuing pain with addictions to drugs, liquor, sex or work, or experiencing depression, eating disorders or suicidal thoughts - young men who desperately need validation, support and professional therapy.
How Chicago Archbishop Blasé Cupich responds now in this case will show clearly whether he is a Cardinal Francis George clone or is more compassionate toward deeply wounded child sex abuse victims.
Two final points:
First, we firmly believe that Cupich, and likely his predecessor Cardinal Francis George, knew about reports that Rev. Mason abused kids at a local Catholic school months ago, perhaps even years ago.
So Cupich is violating his promises, archdiocesan policies and the US Catholic bishops’ policy, by keeping silent about these serious and credible allegations.
Time and time again, Catholic officials – including Cupich – have pledged to be “open and transparent” about clergy sex abuse cases. Local and national policies purportedly mandate such openness. But Cupich is, we believe, breaking those promises and policies – like many other Catholic officials do and have done. And we believe Cupich will never be disciplined for this. Why? Because those policies are pure public relations, meant to mollify the parishioners, not meant to be enforced. Those policies are window-dressing, nothing more. And this unwillingness by the Catholic officials – to discipline wrongdoers in the church hierarchy – is why cover ups of child sex crimes continue.
Second, shame on Chicago Presbyterian officials for their unforgiveable secrecy in this case. Last year, the Chicago Tribune reported “In 2007, the Chicago Presbytery reached a confidential settlement with several men who claimed they had been sexually abused by a Presbyterian minister. Though nearly 250 Presbyterian leaders approved the payout, congregations never knew the details because the plaintiffs asked that the settlement be sealed.”
Instead of learning from the Catholic church’s on-going clergy sex abuse and cover up scandal, Chicago Presbyterian officials seem determined to mimic it. How utterly tragic.
So we beg everyone who may have any information or suspicions about crimes or cover ups connected with Mason to call law enforcement, get independent help, expose church wrongdoers, deter future cover ups and make churches safer.
Though Rev. Mason is deceased, criminal prosecution against some who concealed his crimes may be possible (such as intimidating witnesses, tampering with evidence, obstruction of justice, child endangerment).
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We were founded in 1988 and have more than 20,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)