Catholic New World: Newspaper for the Archdiocese of Chicago

McCormack pleads guilty;
sentenced to 5 years in prison

By Michelle Martin
Assistant editor

Father Daniel McCormack pleaded guilty July 2 to five counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse stemming from charges that he molested five boys between the ages of 8 and 12 at St. Agatha Parish and at Our Lady of the Westside School between 2001 and 2005. He was immediately sentenced to five years in prison.

The Archdiocese of Chicago announced in a statement that it will now institute proceedings under church law to “seek Father McCormack’s separation from the ordained priesthood.”

McCormack was removed from active ministry in January 2006 when he arrested on charges of molesting two boys; subsequent charges were added as more victims came forward.

Commenting on the July 2 court proceeding Cardinal George said, “The sexual abuse of children is a sin and a crime. When the abuser is a priest, the whole church is affected. Such misconduct by a priest or anyone else associated with the archdiocese cannot be tolerated.”

McCormack’s arrest rocked the archdiocese, as it came out that the priest, then pastor at St. Agatha, had been arrested and questioned in late August 2005 about allegations made by the family of one boy stemming from incidents three years earlier. Police released him because of a lack of evidence.

He was allowed to remain at St. Agatha, although another priest moved in to the rectory and was asked to monitor him. However, the second priest—who had a full-time job teaching at a high school—was never told why he was supposed to monitor McCormack. Mc- Cormack also was instructed to avoid contact with children, but he continued to be active at Our Lady of the Westside School.

At the time, Cardinal George said that Mc- Cormack was not removed from ministry immediately because no one ever came to the archdiocese to make an allegation— the starting point for all the archdiocese’s procedures. While the cardinal and other leaders learned of the August arrest several days after the fact, civil authorities did not share the identity of the victim with them.

He was arrested in January 2006 after the school’s principal reported allegations from another boy, and he was charged in both cases.

The case led the archdiocese to commission an audit of the handling of this case and of its monitoring procedures for priests who have had credible allegations of sexual abuse lodged against them. The audit of McCormack’s case showed many inconsistencies in the way policies for the protection of children were applied.

The archdiocese has made changes to policies and procedures, including putting Chancellor Jimmy Lago in charge of all efforts to safeguard children.

“In the months since we learned of this case, we have evaluated our processes and undertaken new initiatives to safeguard children,” Lago said. “Sexual abuse exists throughout our society and we know that. When it involves a betrayal of religious trust however, it is especially horrific. Because we are a church, we understand we have a particular call to promote a safe environment for children.”