who criticized archdiocese expects to lose post
By F.N. D'Alessio
June 6, 2007
CHICAGO -- A Roman Catholic school principal
who has criticized Archdiocese of Chicago officials for their handling of sexual
abuse allegations against the school's former parish priest said Wednesday she
expects to lose her post.
"It breaks my heart, but I just don't see
any way out of it," Barbara Westrick, principal of Our Lady of the Westside
School, said in a telephone interview.
Westrick sent a letter May 29
to parents of the 200 preschool through eighth-grade students at the school's
two campuses, telling them that officials had not yet renewed her contract as
principal, a post she has held for four years.
In her letter, Westrick said
archdiocesan policy calls for principals' contracts to be renewed by March 1,
but said the Rev. Larry Dowling told her in February that he was too unfamiliar
with St. Agatha's Church and the parish's school to meet that deadline. She said
that on April 17, Dowling told her he would delay his decision until after students
left for summer vacation.
"Because of these delays, my future at this
school is uncertain," Westrick wrote to parents.
The archdiocese released
a brief statement Wednesday saying, in part: "Ms. Westrick has chosen to
publicize issues related to her employment as principal of Our Lady of the Westside
School. However, the Archdiocese of Chicago will not discuss individual personnel
Westrick, who said she has taught at Catholic schools in
Illinois and Michigan for 37 years, complained publicly in December that the archdiocese
appeared to be using her as a scapegoat in the case of Dowling's predecessor --
the Rev. Daniel McCormack, who taught algebra and coached boys' basketball at
McCormack faces five counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse
in the alleged fondling of five boys at the school and church. McCormack has pleaded
not guilty to all the charges; his next court date is set for July 2.
of the accusations date back to 2001, but McCormack was not charged or removed
as pastor until after Westrick informed police, the archdiocese and the Illinois
Department of Children and Family Services of allegations one boy made to her
in January 2006.
Westrick complained in December that a letter placed in
her personnel file chastised her for her handling of an earlier incident regarding
abuse allegations against McCormack.
In September 2005, a woman told Westrick
that McCormack had sexually abused her son several years earlier. Westrick said
the woman told her she had reported the allegation to the archdiocese and Chicago
police, who arrested McCormack but then released him, saying there was not enough
evidence to pursue the case.
Westrick said she assumed she would hear from
the archdiocese or police, but never did. She said when she questioned McCormack
about the woman's claims, he said the archdiocese told him to have a parent sit
in on one his classes, but otherwise brushed her off.
"I will not be
the archdiocese's scapegoat or allow my reputation to be destroyed in order to
deflect the truth about the archdiocese's atrocious handing of Father Daniel McCormack,"
Westrick said in December.
Westrick's May 29 letter to parents was publicly
released Wednesday by the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests.
think the principal showed courage, and that the archdiocese should praise her
instead of punishing her," said SNAP president Barbara Blaine. "I hope
every family with children at the school gets involved on her behalf."
© 2007, The Associated Press