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Chicago Archdiocese Releases Sex Abuse Report

Jan 17, 2003 | Chicago Daily Herald

The Archdiocese of Chicago's report on the status of sex abuse cases is a small step toward addressing the problem, but it doesn't go far enough, a victim's rights group said Thursday.

The group, the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, was responding to the church's Thursday release of the 79-page report. The report lists the number of abuse cases, but does not name the accused, even though the church has already named some of those priests for the media.

Issuing the report, church officials say, is one way to remain accountable to lay Catholics.

It states that 36 priests have been accused of 55 cases of abuse since 1993. Though all of the abuse has been reported since 1993, all of the crimes occurred prior to 1990, said Jimmy Lago, the archdiocese's chancellor and author of the report.

He said none of the clergy are in ministry today. About nine have contested the allegations and are awaiting a church trial either in Chicago or Rome, he said.

Another dozen priests were accused in the past decade, Lago said, but those cases were not substantiated. Officials also said they received at least 200 e-mails or phone calls alleging abuse by various priests, but were unable to follow up because the information often was vague. In some cases, the accusers did not leave their names.

The report also shows that in the last 10 years the archdiocese has spent $16.8 million on settlements, therapy for victims and legal fees. It also updates recent policy changes by the archdiocese on the subject.

Archdiocese officials said Thursday they can't claim there have not been youths who have been abused in the past decade.

"To say you've eliminated sin is a big, big claim and I don't want to say that," said Cardinal Francis George, Chicago archbishop.

He did say, though, that he believes people today would feel more comfortable stepping forward.

The report's release is a small step toward openness, said Barbara Blaine, SNAP founder and president.

Still, she said there is more the archdiocese can do, including fighting to extend or repeal the statute of limitations on criminal prosecution of such cases.

But Blaine did find some encouraging signs Thursday. She said the cardinal for the first time did not equivocate when he said confidentiality agreements would not be enforced.

Claire Noonan, a spokeswoman for Call to Action, a national organization of Catholics who advocate for church reform, said there needs to be a compilation of the names of all the priests.

"Those men may still be in contact with children and it's important that they be publicly known," she said.

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