Chicago archdiocese hid decades of sexual abuse

For decades, those at the highest levels of the nation’s third-largest archdiocese moved accused priests from parish to parish while hiding the clerics’ histories from the public.

CHICAGO — After a 13-year-old boy reported in 1979 that a priest raped him and threatened him at gunpoint to keep quiet, the Archdiocese of Chicago assured the boy’s parents that although the cleric avoided prosecution, he would receive treatment and have no further contact with minors.

But the Rev. William Cloutier, who already had been accused of molesting other children, was returned to ministry a year later and was accused of more abuse before he resigned in 1993, two years after the boy’s parents filed a lawsuit. Officials took no action against Cloutier over his earliest transgressions because he “sounded repentant,” according to internal archdiocese documents released Tuesday that show how the archdiocese tried to contain a mounting scandal over child sexual abuse.

For decades, those at the highest levels of the nation’s third-largest archdiocese moved accused priests from parish to parish while hiding the clerics’ histories from the public. The documents, released through settlements between attorneys for the archdiocese and victims, describe how the late Cardinals John Cody and Cardinal Joseph Bernardin often approved the reassignments. The archdiocese removed some priests from ministry, but often years or decades after the clergy were known to have molested children.

While disturbing stories of clergy sexual abuse have wrenched the Roman Catholic Church across the globe, the newly released documents offer the broadest look yet into how one of its largest and most prominent American dioceses responded to the scandal.

The documents, posted online Tuesday, cover only 30 of the at least 65 clergy for whom the archdiocese says it has substantiated claims of child abuse. Vatican documents related to the 30 cases were not included, under the negotiated terms of the disclosure.

The records also didn’t include the files of former priest Daniel McCormack, who pleaded guilty in 2007 to abusing five children and whose case prompted an apology from Cardinal Francis George and an internal investigation of how the archdiocese responds to abuse claims.

But the more than 6,000 pages include internal communications between church officials, disturbing testimony about specific abuses, meeting schedules where allegations were discussed, and letters from anguished parishioners. The names of victims, and details considered private under mental health laws were redacted.

In a letter distributed to parishes last week, Cardinal George apologized to victims and Catholics, and said the archdiocese agreed to turn over the records in an attempt to help the victims heal.

The archdiocese released a statement Tuesday saying it knows it “made some decisions decades ago that are now difficult to justify” and that society has evolved in how it deals with abuse.

“The Church and its leaders have acknowledged repeatedly that they wished they had done more and done it sooner, but now are working hard to regain trust, to reach out to victims and their families, and to make certain that all children and youth are protected,” the statement read.

Officials in the archdiocese said most of the abuse detailed in the files released Tuesday occurred before 1988, none after 1996, and that all these cases ultimately were reported to authorities.

But victims’ lawyers argue many of the allegations surfaced after George assumed control of the archdiocese in 1997, and some of the documents relate to how the church handled the cases more recently.

“The issue is not when the abuse happened; the issue is what they did once it was reported,” said Chicago attorney Marc Pearlman, who has represented about 200 victims of clergy abuse in the Chicago area.

When a young woman reported in 1970 that she’d been abused as a teen, for example, Cody assured the priest that the “whole matter has been forgotten” because “no good can come of trying to prove or disprove the allegations.”

Accused priests often were quietly sent away for a time for treatment or training programs, the documents show. When the accused clerics returned, officials often assigned them to new parishes and asked other priests to monitor them around children.

In one 1989 letter to Bernardin, the vicar for priests worries about parishioners discovering the record of the Rev. Vincent E. McCaffrey, who was moved four times because of abuse allegations.

“Unfortunately, one of the key parishioners … received an anonymous phone call which made reference by name to Vince and alleged misconduct on his part with young boys,” wrote vicar for priests, the Rev. Raymond Goedert. “We all agreed that the best thing would be for Vince to move. We don’t know if the anonymous caller will strike again.”

When the archdiocese tried to force accused clergy into treatment or isolate them at church retreats, some of the priests refused, or ignored orders by church administrators to stay away from children.

Church officials worried about losing parishioners and “potential priests” over abuse scandals. “This question I believe is going to get stickier and stickier,” Patrick O’Malley, then-vicar for priests, wrote in a 1992 letter.

…continued at the link above.


This is pretty much the same type of information that I’ve seen about Los Angeles and many other dioceses in the past. And it is all about cases that are decades old.

Not to whitewash it. Obviously, great sins were committed and things were not handled well (to put it mildly). I do think that mere ignorance played a large role. It seems they really thought that sending a priest away for some therapy was sufficient to fix the problem and send him back out in the field. Hindsight reveals that to be a grave mistake, of course.

It is terrible that this all happened. But it did happen. This is the way things were in a lot of places at the time. We cannot change that now. But things are in a much better place right now.

On a personal anecdotal note, I was in this archdiocese in the early 90s and one of our priests was accused of abuse (though the accusations came from a previous parish and no accusations ever came from my parish). When the accusations came to light, he was removed from the parish, arrested, and we were all informed. :shrug:

The wounds for all Catholics and all victims are going to be reopened again. We are never allowed to heal. My heart is breaking again.

It seems this horrific evil that has been done to the “Little Ones” was not cleaned of all its poisonous effects. It is still surfacing to satisfy justice. Holy Father Benedict had to rid 400 perpetrators over a two year period. Millstones are extremely heavy I am told.


If anything, it will be a constant reminder of what people should never tolerate and allow… and that’s a good thing in some ways.

My feelings exactly. (Combined with some degree of anger).

Yes, this an ugly festering wound and we simply have to be contrite and diligent. However, there is one question that no one seems to ever ask out of fear of seeming to attack the laity itself, yet nevertheless should be asked. What role as laity did we play? We must have!

For example, dont the parents who signed confidentiality agreements with settlement checks deserve some questioning too? They may have protected their children but didnt they play a role in allowing other children to be harmed? Perhaps they trusted Church officials who promised them that the offending priests would not abuse again and were threatened with some type of " assurances of hell" if they spoke out. But was this in fact the case? This is in no way meant to excuse the Church in any way. But, much of these abuse cases in which there were multiple victims, would seem to have been very difficult to come about if there was not complicity by the laity. Perhaps not always , but certainly in cases.

Also, the psychology, police and legal professionals who gave advice to the Church also seem very negligent at best and nearly as responsible as the Church at worst! And yet there is NEVER a word ever spoken about any of these factors! Yet we know mental health professionals knew very little about treating pedophilia today, let alone decades ago, and yet some assured the Church that offending priests had been “cured”. We also know from Church records that Church attorneys sometimes gave the Church legal advice which resulted in much obfuscation of the situation. I am not suggesting these parties are to blame, but they were certainly grease that helped work the process of cover up. Without such grease, certain bureaucracies are not capable of grinding on in crisis.

My point is that when the world already wants to shred the Church to pieces, someone needs to shine a little light on the fact that this crisis is NOT just the work of an organized Church structure intent on abusing children and hiding it! Yet , with SNAP and their supporters in the media, this is the only story being told! The fact is that for a certain period in history an inordinate percent of men with homosexual and heterosexual oriented pedophilia (or generally an attraction to pre-and pubescent children) were able to enter the seminaries, become priests, and when their abuse was discovered many of their bishops tried to avoid scandal rather than make their priority the protection of children. But many people were involved outside the offending priests and their bishops!

And perhaps until these lay people admit their guilt in the process, it wont do any good to root out bad priests and bishops alone! Clergy and laity, including parents may be to blame as well. And its not just a Church issue. Its an issue every church and institution involving children will need to address honestly!

Although I’m in agreement that any type of child abuse be brought to light, it seems to me that the media in general is more fixated on the Catholic Church than any other institution when bringing this issue to the fore, i.e., take a look at these statistics from the The New York Times: has surveyed every article that New York Times National Religion Correspondent Laurie Goodstein has written (or co-written) in the past three years and has found that while Goodstein has composed dozens of articles about sex abuse in the Catholic Church, she has authored exactly zero articles on abuse elsewhere. identified 189 articles authored (or co-authored) by Goodstein between September 24, 2010, and September 23, 2013.

Imbalance at the Grey Lady

And while only 25% of Americans identify themselves as Catholics, our survey found that well over half of Goodstein’s articles in last three years (116 articles, or 61%) dealt with issues directly related to the Catholic Church. Of those, almost 40% of the stories focused specifically on the issue of sex abuse in the Church.

You can read the rest of the article (and many other articles written about the bias in the media regarding CC abuse). Refrain as much as you can from reading the commentary! :manvspc:

Yes, I have felt this way as well. I personally know people who were abused by priests and have found that sometimes parents or guardians closed their eyes to the signs that something was happening. Some didn’t want to believe that their priest was doing it to their child. In one instance that happened in my diocese, the boy who was around my age told his parents. The parents decided to believe the priest (a friend of the family) over their son when the priest told them he was lying. The boy continued to be abused due to the neglect of the parents and he eventually committed suicide.

Now, I know from speaking with victims, some priests threatened the victims that they would hurt their other siblings or parents, or they would go to hell if they said something, but I do think there are people who turned a blind eye even when they were told. And this isn’t just relegated to the abuse scandal in the Church. I think for decades and decades because the idea of children or teens being abused was so distasteful and awful, no one wanted to acknowledge it or talk about it. Because of that, more children were abused in both the secular and religious arenas.

As I know from my diocese, the majority of police and firemen in my area are Catholic. There has always been a bit of a don’t ask, don’t tell policy of things happening. They protected the Church to a certain extent in this regard, but ended up hurting the children by their lack of action.

There can be a lot of people to blame, but in the end, the majority of the blame should go to the perpetrators, themselves, and to anyone who actively worked in moving the priests and around and not informing parishioners of these perpetrators.

The only stories the media wants to write about our beloved Church are ones where it can feel “superior” to her, because to acknowledge Her as being correct runs contrary to everything they stand for. Even when they are honoring our holy father, they do so in a manner intended to paint him as someone going against the teachings of the Church. The church stands against everything the liberal media adores, so of course they’re going to slander her.

I agree with those who are saying yes, this happens in many institutions, yes parents, police and psychologists could have done a better job, yes the media probably wishes to use this to attempt to destroy the Church, but…this is the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church and these men shared in the Priesthood of Christ himself. And so I hold our dear Church to the highest standard on earth, higher than the President of the United States. And while the Church is slowly getting a handle on the issue, IT IS DEVASTATING TO THE FAITHFUL that this problem is slowly being revealed to have been more problematic than we ever could have thought. As someone else said, my heart is broken, both for the victims and the laity and priests who have been faithful to their calling. Finally, I am sorry to say, that men who would call themselves priests and would rape a child and then threaten him at gunpoint are doing nothing more than the devil’s work and it totally disgusts me. Thank you for allowing me to rant for a minute.

Oh please, what else is new?

No sarcasm. But when stories like these come out and it’s surprising, I’m just like, “Orly, where have you been?”

That’s not to take any gravity away from the situation. But rather than acting all surprised that something happens, I wish we as a society–not CAF but the world in general–would take a different approach, free from the hoopla.

It is devastating to hear, but God warned us of the weeds (planted by the enemy), my hope is that this knowledge will bring greater awareness/observance (orthodoxy) by the hierarchy and laity alike.

p.s. We need more prayers for our Church, God will see us through this.

I still think however that the reasons for airing the abuse have nothing to do with protecting children, but more to do with hatred of the Church.

Hindsight wasn’t required in this specific diocese – the archbishop was strongly advised not to move at least one abusive priest to a parish in which he’d be dealing with children and the archbishop willfully ignored this counsel.

I feel physically ill when Catholics attempt to redirect this type of conversation by claiming the media is too focused on the Church’s abuse problems rather than that in other kinds of communities. Classic tu quoque and a complete fallacy. I also feel nauseous when Catholics get tired of hearing about the abuse scandal. There’s no justification here. People in Holy Mother Church knowingly perpetrated evil and evil doesn’t change just because it’s close to home.

Here’s a link to the Chicago documents:

For comparison –

Los Angeles documents:

Milwaukee Documents:

I’m sorry that this is making you feel sick. It is a difficult issue for everyone. If you feel up to talking to people, I think you’ll find that nearly everyone agrees on the most important aspects.

It is a disgusting fact that in our lifetimes the Church leaders have let us down so badly. Our new Pope Francis and his predecessor Pope Benedict seem to have begun to clean the ranks of this evil. When she was quite young, my oldest daughter held Cardinal Bernard Law’s hat and I was so proud of her. Today she cannot identify with this church and I don’t blame her. I personally wish that she spat on Cardinal Law’s hat for his outrageous continuance of the Church’s cover-up and continuance of moving evil priests around. I also have lost respect for "His Holiness "JPII.
It is very hard to move past this outrageous disregard for our children’s welfare. Our children are the Church in the future, past and present. There is a lot of time needed still to heal the awful wounds our church leaders have subjected us to.
I pray that our leaders will continue to address this problem and clean up our Church.

:grouphug: I do take comfort in Christ’s words: “I am with you always.” Even in the midst of this horror, He is here with His people.

Yes, there is and should be horror.

But some of the horror is misplaced, and that has led to a very great problem.

Talk to most people about "clerical sexual abuse’ and you’ll hear diatribes about the evil Catholic Church and how its crazy demands for celibacy led to this abuse, and how their evil leaders were more concerned with looking good than doing good.

But you won’t hear anything said about the protestants, the Jews, the Muslims, the secular humanists. You won’t hear anything about parents (who are immeasurably more likely to be abusers than a Catholic priest). You won’t hear about the police, the doctors, the lawyers, the schools, etc who did, in the 60s, 70s, 80s and even early 90s, exactly the same thing as the Catholic Church**** because that is the advice that was given by the authorities --I mean, by the police, the doctors, and the lawyers.

The fact is that in time that most of the abuse was committed not just ‘the Catholic Church’ but every U.S. 'societal group believed that child abuse was something that should be ‘hushed up for the sake of the child’ and every physician believed that pedophilia could and was ‘cured’.

Now take a bishop living in 1974. It is brought to his attention that one of his priests has been guilty of not even sexual penetration, but of fondling (which is of course bad enough). The bishop is told by the doctors that pedophilia is treatable. he sends the priest for treatment. The doctors pronounce the priest ‘cured’ and they suggest that he be sent out, ‘now cured’, to a situation involving children because "he is cured and there will be no more problem.’
Meanwhile, the parents of the child beg that this not get out because it would shame them. (This is the pre Jerry Springer era of ‘let’s share everything bad that happens to us so we can be victims’). The police officers say that it would be too damaging for everyone to pursue this as a crime. The lawyers refuse to touch it. And this is going on not just at St Anonymous but over at the episcopal church, the schools, private homes, everywhere.

Let’s be fair. For the cases (and there are a few) where it is late enough that doctors know pedophilia cannot be cured, where the bishop knew WITH CERTAINTY that this person was dangerous to children and deliberately sent him off without letting people know. . .yes, throw the book.

But if you are going to fault some years-dead bishop 40 years ago for not knowing, in spite of evidence given by professionals that a person pronounced ‘cured’ was not, and that despite professional advice from lawyers and police that ‘keeping it quiet’ was more damaging than not. . .

Then I say you have to go to virtually EVERY SINGLE PUBLIC SCHOOL, every single religious group, and pretty much every mother and father during the last 40 years, and pull their records, and charge them in the very same court of public opinion that you are doing to Catholic priests. if a 50 year old says that his dead father once ‘touched him’, go after that father’s estate, print his name in the paper, and try and convict him. If a school superintendent in 1974 had a teacher fondle a child, and let the teacher ‘go’ giving him a good reference after the teacher went through being ‘cured’, bankrupt that school and pillory every person who was involved as ‘covering up a crime’.

Fair is fair. Again I say, in the cases where a bishop absolutely knew that the priest had committed abuse, could not be cured, knew the priest WOULD abuse, and deliberately sent him off to do so. . .prosecute to the fullest extent of the law. But you will find remarkably few cases where you can absolutely pronounce that such was the case. And if bishop X in 1974 acted in good faith under the absolute assurance of medical and legal professionals, why is bishop X the only one considered at fault and not the medical and legal professionals, may I ask?

Why is there this huge coverup and denial that it was the medical and legal professions’ advice for decades to let these priests go to a new job without disclosing his prior acts? And their refusal to ‘bring these things to court’? And the parents, what about their complicity in this?

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