Statement of Cardinal Francis George
Re: Allegations of Sexual Abuse of Minors against Fr. Daniel McCormack
Late Wednesday, Jan. 25, I returned to Chicago and was briefed on the allegations now being made against Fr. McCormack. In any such stories, the first concern is for those alleging to have been abused, and they are in my prayers. But others are also involved, especially in the effort to evaluate whether a story is true or not.
Last August, an allegation of sexual abuse by Fr. McCormack was made to the police, not to the Archdiocese. The Archdiocese was advised by the civil authorities that there was insufficient evidence to bring charges against Fr. McCormack, and no charges were filed. The Archdiocese then asked the police to request the parents of the accuser, whose name was still unknown to us, to come forward so that the Archdiocesan investigation could begin. To err on the side of caution, since there was no evidence available to make an informed and definitive judgment, Fr. McCormack was told not to be alone with children and was assigned a personal monitor. The Archdiocese, despite many requests, has still not received either the police interview of last August or any allegation against Fr. McCormack that could be used to begin an investigation on our part. The Archdiocese is in communication with the attorney of the family.
When a second story arose over a week ago, the allegation was made to the Archdiocese. The accusation was made by an eighth grade student at St. Agatha’s school on January 18, and school officials followed Archdiocesan policies, calling the police and notifying the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (IDCFS). On January 20, Fr. McCormack was arrested and charged. On January 21, after consulting the Review Board, the Vicar General, in my absence, removed Fr. McCormack from ministry, pending the completion of the investigation. Since these are criminal charges, the State will pursue its own investigation, with full cooperation on the part of Archdiocesan officials and others.
Some have said that Fr. McCormack should have been immediately removed from ministry last August on the basis of what remains hearsay, without any sort of process. It seems to me morally wrong to insist that anyone should be punished on the basis of a story that could not be investigated. If this were the practice, no one would be safe.
With the publicity surrounding these allegations, other stories may come forward, and the Archdiocese will pursue each one. Among my particular concerns now is St. Agatha School, its teachers and administrators, its families and students who make up a fine institution. They have my support and are in my prayers.
Along with my prayers for all involved, I would hope that anyone who has knowledge of the abuse of children by a priest or anyone else would report it immediately to IDCFS and to the Archdiocesan Professional Responsibility Administrator (312--5205). The Archdiocesan process works well when it is given a chance to be used. These sinful acts, however, have personal and spiritual consequences beyond what any investigative or judicial process can address. We need to ask the Lord to heal the victims and have mercy on all involved.