The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

SNAP Press Statement

Statement Regarding Admitted Missteps
by Chicago's Cardinal George


March 21, 2006

Statement by David Clohessy of St. Louis
SNAP National Director 314-566-9790

"This is a new version of the old strategy: admit wrong-doing, since everyone already knows about it, and promise more, since many will eventually forget about it. It's the same public relations formula every bishop has used and continues to use throughout the crisis."

Statement by Barbara Blaine of Chicago
SNAP President 312 399 4747

"Begrudgingly and belatedly admitting obvious wrong-doing isn't progress. Punishing and stopping secretive recklessness is progress. That's still not happening.

How many times will we be subjected to this painful, ineffective pattern: priest abuses child, George blames others, George then apologizes, George hand-picks someone to 'look into it,' and promises everything will be better in the future.

Time and time again, for years, this pattern has been allowed to repeat itself.

As young Catholics, we're taught to take responsibility for our sins. We aren't allowed to enter the confessional and say "I meant well, but my process was insufficient."

Nor are we allowed to avoid consequences for our sins by saying "I've apologized, and I'll do better in the future."

The egregious mishandling of recent clergy sex abuse cases demands real consequences, not new promises.

---- McCormack.

It's not about McCormack. It's about a decades-old and on-going practice of putting the reputation of powerful clerics above the safety of innocent kids.

In the last three weeks, Chicagoans have learned of seven new credibly accused abusive priests. Three of them remained in active ministry until a week or two ago, despite earlier allegations. All but one face several accusers.

The seven recently disclosed child molesting clerics include Fr. John Rohrick, Fr. Howard Strum, Fr. Paul O'Toole, Msgr. Dominic Diederich, Fr. Joseph Bennett, Fr. William J. Spine and Fr. Daniel McCormack. The latter three remained in active ministry until the last few days or weeks.

---- Monitoring.

Again, admitting something's broken when everyone already knows it is little consolation or progress. Priests can't oversee abusive priests. Instead of allegedly working to improve monitoring, George needs to work on getting child molesting clerics prosecuted criminally.

---- More names of accused priests

This is the most encouraging step being taken, but sadly, its taken years to happen and we aren't convinced it is comprehensive. Now it's time for George to start aggressively trying to find and help victims of these men.

---- Yet another new person being hired.

George can hire dozens more staff. But until he fires some of the staff who have caused kids to be molested, the organizational culture of protecting priests and keeping secrets won't change.

George still ignores three disturbing inconsistencies:

-- George claimed there were no earlier allegations against Fr. McCormack. A nun disputes this. She says she reported McCormack's abusive actions, verbally and in writing, to several church officials six years ago.

He has not explained this inconsistency.

-- George claims the family of a McCormack victim who came forward last August never contacted church officials. That mother disputes this. She says she "called the archdiocese to report the allegations within days of learning of the abuse and going to police in late August" and she "talked to archdiocesan officials on at least three occasions in September -- twice by phone, and once in person at a meeting with a teacher and a principal."

He has not explained this inconsistency either.

-- George's own hand-picked review board urged him months ago to remove McCormack, but he ignored their advice.

He has not explained this inconsistency either.

Sadly, after years and years of scandal, we have become convinced it's not the church's procedures that are flawed; it's the church's leadership that's flawed. And it will remain flawed until lay people insist on real change. We believe "where there's a will, there's a way,' and that if the Cardinal truly valued the safety of dozens of kids (more than the reputation of one adult), he would have removed Fr. Bennett and Fr. McCormack months or even years ago, and disciplined those who shielded these predators.

Apologizing protects no one. New committees protect no one. Only courage and honesty protects kids. That's been lacking in the Chicago Catholic hierarchy. It's still lacking.

For more information:

David Clohessy, SNAP National Director 314 566 9790

Barbara Dorris, SNAP Outreach Director 314 503 0003, 314 862 7688




Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests