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February 23 - March 8, 2014

Archdiocese of Chicago document release fact check

The Archdiocese understands the concerns and questions surrounding the recent release of documents related to 30 Archdiocesan priests who have been accused of abusing minors at various times during the last half century. Because of the recent conflicting and inaccurate media reports regarding the document release, the archdiocese wants to provide some additional, factual background information.

1992 and 2002 reforms

FACT ...

  • In September 1992, after appointing a special commission to assess how sexual misconduct was being handled by the archdiocese, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin announced new policies regarding clerical sexual misconduct and established the archdiocese’s independent Review Board and the assistance ministry — one of the first in the nation.
  • The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People (Dallas Charter) was promulgated by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in June 2002
  • In October 2002, Cardinal George led a delegation to Rome to secure approval of the Dallas Charter and the zero tolerance policy, which states no priest with even one substantiated allegation of sexual abuse can serve in ministry.

Archdiocese of Chicago Today

FACT ...

  • No priest with even one substantiated allegation of sexual abuse of a minor serves in ministry in the Archdiocese of Chicago today.
  • The Archdiocese of Chicago is in full compliance with the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.
  • When an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor by a cleric is received by the archdiocese, the allegation is immediately reported to civil authorities. The priest involved can be asked to step aside while the allegation is further investigated.
  • The archdiocese’s independent Review Board examines the findings of abuse investigations and makes recommendations to the archbishop regarding fitness for ministry and safety of children. Following the 2002 Charter, the goal is to ensure that all perpetrators are permanently removed from ministry.
  • Since 2003 the Archdiocese of Chicago has trained more than 160,000 priests, deacons, religious, lay employees and volunteers to recognize and prevent abuse.
  • More than 200,000 children have been trained to protect themselves from sexual predators.
  • Three thousand training sessions, conducted by 280 facilitators, have been held to prevent sexual abuse in the archdiocese.
  • The Archdiocese’s Office for the Protection of Children and Youth (www.protectandhealchicago. org), created in 2003, is a widely recognized leader in child protection services and is committed to making situations better for abuse survivors and their families.

Document release

FACT ...

  • n The archdiocese released the documents related to the 30 archdiocesan priests who have been accused of abusing minors at various times during the last half century as part of a mediation agreement signed in 2006. No court action or court order compelled the release of these documents.
  • n Lawyers for the victims, priests and the archdiocese reviewed the documents and anything that would violate the privacy of victims and innocent third parties was redacted. Nothing was redacted to conceal the identity of the 30 priests or their supervisors. n Ninety-five percent of the misconduct reflected in the documents occurred prior to 1988, and none occurred after 1996.

Document details

FACT ...

  • The archdiocese acknowledges that its leaders made decisions decades ago that are now difficult to justify. They made those decisions in accordance with the prevailing laws and knowledge at the time. In the past 40 years, society and the law have changed in dealing with matters related to abuse.
  • There is no test that reliably predicts that someone will sexually abuse a minor.
  • The percentage of adult males in the general population who sexually abuse minors — 4 percent — is the same percentage found in priests.
  • Since 2002, the archdiocese has reported all allegations of clerical sexual misconduct with minors to public authorities pursuant to written protocols established for that purpose.

Priests involved

FACT ...

  • Almost all of the 30 priests whose files were included in the document release have been listed on the archdiocese’s website for many years. The only priests from these 30 who are not listed on the website are those priests who were not accused of minor sexual abuse until after their death. Since these priests were unable to respond to the allegations and are no longer a threat to the community, their names were not previously made public.
  • Of the 30 priests all but one are deceased or laicized. None is in active ministry.
  • Religious order priests are the responsibility of their respective religious order. As a result, the Archdiocese of Chicago does not have access to the personnel files of religious order priests. Requests for that information should be directed to the order involved.
  • When the archdiocese was, and is, made aware of abusive behavior by an order priest, it reports the allegation to civil authorities and to the religious order.

Abuse settlements

FACT ...

  • The archdiocese attempts to resolve claims as respectfully as possible.
  • Over the past 25 years, the archdiocese has paid more than $100 million in settlements to victims and their families.

* This chart shows the departures of 68 accused priests. These include priests with substantiated allegations who are listed on the Archdiocese web site as of 1/1/2014, and certain additional priests included in the document publication of January, 2014.

The chart illustrates the annual counts of priests removed or departed from ministry in the archdiocese between 1966 and 2012. The first large wave of removals occurred between 1990-93, with 18 accused priests removed or departed. This large increase was due to the changes in the archdiocese during the time. In September 1992, following an extensive investigation and a report by a lay commission charged with assessing response to sexual misconduct in the archdiocese, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin established the archdiocese's independent Review Board for misconduct allegations, and created the assistance ministry function for counseling of victims, families and parishes. These were the first such offices in a large American diocese. Through these offices, allegations of misconduct were systematically evaluated and priests were removed from ministry when allegations were substantiated.

The second largest wave of priest removals was in 2002-2003, during which time 15 accused priests were removed from all ministry; many had previously been removed from parish ministry. This wave of removals followed the promulgation of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People (Dallas Charter) by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in June 2002. The charter established a zero tolerance policy that required no priest with even one substantiated allegation of sexual abuse of a minor can serve in public ministry.

* This chart relates to the group of 30 priests of the Archdiocese of Chicagowhose files were published January, 2014. The chart refletsc a total of 236 "substantiated" allegations of sexual abuse that have been made against this group.