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Chicago Issues Priest Abuse Report

Jan 17, 2003 | USA Today

Allegations of sexual abuse of minors by priests has cost the Archdiocese of Chicago $16.8 million and incalculable pain for victims, Chicago Cardinal Francis George said Thursday after releasing a 10-year report on clerical abuse in the nation's second-largest Roman Catholic diocese.

The report is part of a push by bishops to be more forthright since the abuse scandal erupted last January in Boston, although this report, unlike one by the Archdiocese of Baltimore last summer, does not list priests by name.

Since January 1993, the Chicago Archdiocese's Independent Fitness Review Board calculated:

36 priests were reportedly involved in 55 incidents dating back 40 years. ''Every one of those 55 cases is a tragedy,'' George said.

None of the incidents was more recent than 1991 and none of the priests is now in ministry: 19 were removed, nine resigned and eight are dead.

The archdiocese spent $7.9 million for victim assistance, therapy and settlements, $4.3 million for legal fees and $4.6 million for treating and monitoring priests. The $16.8 million came from insurance, the general fund and $15 million in property sales.

George pledged no future donations to the archdiocese or any of its parishes would go to cover the costs of abuse cases. ''We are looking for more property to sell,'' George said, noting that some claims remain unresolved.

Chicago was one of a handful of U.S. dioceses that had allowed priests guilty of a single incidence of abuse in the distant past to return to monitored ministry if they went through therapy.

When the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops passed a zero-tolerance policy last year, George removed those priests.

Barbara Blaine, president of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, called the report ''a step in the direction of openness.'' Claire Noonan of Call to Action, a lay Catholic reform group based in Chicago, praised it as ''forthright.''

But Noonan and Blaine both said it falls short by failing to name abusers. Releasing names helps victims heal and protects ''children to whom they may now have access,'' Noonan said.

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