Chicago — The Chicago Archdiocese had a practice of moving priests accused of sexual abuse to new parishes, where they committed more abuse against children, according to documents released this week by lawyers representing the victims.
The latest in a series of such abuse disclosures by Midwest church officials, the documents provided to lawyers by the nation’s third-largest Archdiocese concern 30 former priests accused of abusing minors during the last half century.
“These were not mistakes,” said attorney Marc Pearlman, who represents the victims of child sexual abuse by clergy. “These were decisions made at the very highest level.”
Pearlman said the files, which amounted to thousands of pages of documents, showed a pattern of repeated abuse with the Archdiocese working to keep the allegations secret and transfers of abusers to new parishes.
Fourteen of the men are deceased – the rest are out of ministry. Lawyers also released documents on Tuesday regarding two additional priests – one of them, Daniel McCormack, who had been in ministry in Chicago until 2006.
The document release was part of a mediation agreement between the Archdiocese and lawyers. Lawyers said they also want the Archdiocese to release documents on 35 other priests.
Cardinal Francis George, who has led the Archdiocese since 1997, apologized earlier in January to those harmed by abuse, and said the publication of the records would raise transparency to a new level.
The Archdiocese said 95 percent of the cases occurred prior to 1988.
Similar disclosures regarding clergy abuse have been made by church leaders in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area and in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in the past year.
When asked why the disclosures were coming out so close together, Nicholas Cafardi, dean emeritus at the Duquesne University School of Law and an expert on the abuse scandal, said it may be a “Pope Francis effect.”
“He said we need to reach out to the victims of child sexual abuse,” Cafardi said. “One way to protect the children is to put the names of known child sexual abusers out there.”