Serially Abusive Pastor Left off List of Accused Priests Demonstrates Clear Need for Secular Oversight in Chicago

The blame game taking place in Chicago regarding public notice of a serially abusive priest is yet another example of why parishioners and the public cannot rely on Catholic officials to be open and honest about the scope of clergy abuse. We believe this case clearly illustrates the need for secular oversight and involvement.

Fr. John Baptist Ormechea is recognized by the Archdiocese of Chicago to have abused multiple children while working at Immaculate Conception parish in that city. Despite this acknowledgment, his name remains unlisted by Catholic officials from the Archdiocese. Cardinal Blase Cupich and his colleagues have chosen not to list Fr. Ormechea because he is a religious order priest, as if the distinction between religious order or diocesan priest matters to those who were abused by someone wearing a roman collar.

To us, this type of hair-splitting is a disingenuous attempt to undercount and minimize the scope of clergy sexual abuse. We hope that parishioners in Chicago will join our call demanding that the Archdiocese update its list to include the name of all abusers – religious order and extern priests, brothers, nuns, and other staffers – so they can live up to their decades-old promise to be open and transparent.

Catholic officials in Chicago point the finger at the Passionists, the order in which Fr. Ormechea worked, for not posting a list. Cardinal Cupich defends his inaction by saying he has encouraged religious orders like the Passionists to post lists of their own, but this is a half-hearted defense that could be easily remedied by choosing to name these men on his own list. The fact that the Cardinal has not done so demonstrates to us that Church officials in Chicago care more about minimizing their own list than about public awareness of abuse within the Archdiocese.

When abusive priests are listed, it not only validates survivors who have already come forward but also lets other victims who have not yet spoken out know that they are not alone and that their outcry will be believed. We see no real reason for the distinctions made by Catholic officials in Chicago, but we can also tell by their inaction that they do not care to make these updates themselves. This is why we are so looking forward to the report into clergy abuse that is being worked on by attorneys and investigators from Attorney General Kwame Raoul’s office. As has been shown time and time again, the only way to truly get a handle on the scope of this problem is through the involvement of secular officials.

We encourage parishioners throughout Chicago to pointedly ask their Cardinal why he refuses to be transparent about abuse in his Archdiocese. 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 also to A.G. Raoul’s office (1-888-414-7678, [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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