A child becoming a victim of sexual abuse is unthinkable for most people. Unfortunately, this tragic event happens all too often—even right here in Chicago. Although every case is terrible, it often seems worse when the abuser is an adult whom children believe they can trust, such as a priest or religious leader.
While not every priest or church employee is a predator, a series of records released in 2014 by the Archdiocese of Chicago include tens of thousands of pages about allegations against priests and a disturbing, decades-long trend of concealment of child sexual abuse in the Church.
On January 21, 2014, the first set of records was released, showing that the Chicago Archdiocese tried to contain sexual abuse incidents that occurred between 30 of its priests and children prior to 1996. This was followed by the release of additional records on November 6, 2014—spurred by the impending retirement of Cardinal Francis George—that added 36 more priests to the list of abusers. The ongoing release of these documents has been an emotional process for victims, families, and advocates who have worked for nearly a decade to bring this information to light.
The released documents describe how the archdiocese moved priests who were accused of sexual abuse from parish to parish, and hid the clergy members’ history from the public. These documents reveal that late Cardinals John Cody and Joseph Bernardin approved such relocations. Although some abusers were removed from the parishes, many were allowed to continue working for years or decades after the abuse occurred.
The first documents, which were released online on January 21, revealed only 30 of at least 65 priests credibly accused of the sexual abuse of children, as part of the negotiated terms of the disclosure. The names of those abusers are: Robert Becker, Joseph Bennett, Kenneth Brigham, William Cloutier, Robert Craig, John Curran, Joseph Fitzharris, James Hagan, Daniel Holihan, Thomas Job, Thomas Kelly, Joseph Kissane, Norbert Maday, Robert Mayer, Vincent McCaffrey, William O’Brien, Joseph Owens, Emmanuel Pallikunnen, Russell Romano, Kenneth Ruge, Raymond Skriba, Marion Snieg, James Steel, Victor Stewart, Ralph Strand, Thomas Swade, Henry Swider, Walter Turlo, Donald Ulatowski, and Michael Weston.
A second set of documents, released on November 6, added the names of the following 36 abusers: Alexander Baranowski, Richard Bartz, Leonard Bogdan, Robert Bowman, David Braun, Daniel Buck, Eugene Burns, John Calicott, Norman Czajka, Walter Deroeck, Francis Dilla, Richard Fassbinder, James Flosi, Robert Friese, Jesus Garza, John Hefferan, James Hoder, Michael Hogan, Walter Huppenbauer, Robert Kealy, John Keehan, John Keough, Leonard Kmak, William Lupo, Robert McDonald, Peter McNamara, Gary Miller, Donald Mulsoff, James Ray, John Robinson, John Rohrich, Joseph Savage, Albert Tanghal, Richard Theisen, Joseph Thomas, and Anthony Vader.
While the release of these records is an important moment for victims, finding true closure could prove difficult. Most of the records detail incidents from more than two decades ago, and the priests involved in the abuse have since retired from the ministry or passed away.
The alleged sexual abuse of hundreds of children is a wildly disturbing subject, but what is even more disturbing is the pattern of response indicated in the tens of thousands of pages that were released. It’s clear that:
Although Church officials pass the blame to their predecessors and deny any attempts to cover up abuse scandals, it appears that there were serious problems with how these cases were handled—and hundreds of victims were left to carry the weight of that negligence.
If the unthinkable has happened to you or someone you love, you don’t have to be silent. You can receive the help you deserve. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Lane Brown have extensive experience working with victims in child sexual abuse cases in Illinois. In fact, we have a case against the Chicago Archdiocese that is set to go to trial in September 2014. This could be the first trial of its kind against the Chicago Archdiocese, and it alleges that the archdiocese was negligent in allowing sexual abuse against a minor (our client) to occur and that they failed to prevent the priest in question from being ordained as a pastor given what was known about his past transgressions.
We believe the victims have the right to privacy and, unless instructed to by a victim, will never identify him or her in court documents or in the press.
For more information, speak to one of our experienced, compassionate, and discreet lawyers today at 312-332-1400. You can also fill out the form on this page to schedule a confidential, free consultation to discuss your situation.