Yet Another Serial Abuser Left Off Chicago List, Still More Excuses from Catholic Officials

Once again, a news story has broken about a serially abusive Church staffer who has been left off lists of perpetrators in multiple states, replete with weak excuses from Catholic officials attempting to explain away their lack of transparency. This is yet another example of why the only openness we can truly count on in cases of clergy sex crimes is that afforded to the public through grand jury investigations, interventions by attorneys general, and reports to police and prosecutors.

In this case, Deacon James Griffith was known to be an abuser as early as 1988, when he pleaded guilty to sexually abusing a child in Louisville, KY. Despite that conviction, Deacon Griffith – a member of the Passionist Order – was moved first to the Houston area, then San Antonio, Orlando, the suburbs of Chicago, and finally to metropolitan Detroit.  Despite working in these five places, he was only voluntarily named by Catholic officials in Louisville, and he was later added to the list in the Archdiocese of Detroit after prodding from journalists. He remains unnamed on lists released by Catholic officials in Chicago, Houston, San Antonio, and Orlando.

Church leaders like Cardinal Blase Cupich talk a big game about clergy abuse, but when the rubber meets the road, they fail simple tests like naming a man who was criminally convicted of sexual abuse. Cardinal Cupich claims his hands are tied, but it is hard to take those claims seriously when he is the one that bound them. As the leader of the Archdiocese of Chicago, he could unilaterally decide to add the names of religious order priests, deacons, brothers, and nuns to his list. That he has chosen not to speaks volumes.

The only reason not to add the names of men like Deacon Griffith is to create an appearance in the minds of parishioners and the public that the scope of clergy abuse is less than it truly is. Hair splitting like this makes it clear why former A.G. Lisa Madigan’s preliminary report into clergy sexual abuse found that dioceses in Illinois had listed only 185 names when her own investigation found 690. Given that reports findings and the opaqueness from Chicago, it is difficult to trust anything put out by Catholic officials here.

If Cardinal Cupich wants to stick to his hard and fast rule of only listing Archdiocesan priests on his list, then we challenge him to bar from working in his territory any priest from an order that has not published a list of their own. That way Cardinal Cupich could demonstrate that he is willing to work hard to prevent abuse and force religious orders to comply with his directive to post lists.  The fact is, these orders depend on payments from archdioceses like Chicago to keep functioning. If Cardinal Cupich threatens their source of funding, they will comply.

We renew our call for parishioners throughout Chicago to pointedly ask their Cardinal why he refuses to be transparent about abuse in his Archdiocese. And we also call on survivors of abuse throughout Illinois to find the courage to come forward and make a report to local law enforcement and to A.G. Raoul’s office, available by calling 1-888-414-7678 or emailing [email protected].

CONTACT: Zach Hiner, SNAP Executive Director (517-974-9009, [email protected]), Larry Antonsen, SNAP Chicago (773-255-3382, [email protected])  

(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)


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