Sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic archdiocese of Chicago

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The sexual abuse scandal in Chicago archdiocese is a major chapter in the series of Catholic sex abuse cases in the United States and Ireland.

Role of Joseph Bernardin[edit]

Archbishop Joseph Bernardin (1982–1996) was among the first U.S. Cardinals or Bishops to confront the issue of sexual abuse by clergy. He also adapted a strong stance on sexual abuse cases within the clergy by implementing the strongest, most comprehensive policy concerning priests accused of sexual misconduct with minors. Bernardin's reforms concerning this issue soon served as a model for other dioceses across the nation.[1] The archdiocese in 1992, started one of the first programs in the country for victim's assistance.[2]

Bernardin himself was accused of sexual misconduct, but his accuser later recanted his testimony. His accuser, former seminarian Stephen Cook, claimed to have been abused by Bernardin and another priest in the 1970s. However, Cook subsequently dropped Bernardin from his lawsuit, being no longer certain that his memories (which had emerged while he was under hypnosis) were accurate.[3]

Scandal under Cardinal George (1997–2014)[edit]

Prior to the election of Pope Benedict XVI, Cardinal George had spoken with then Cardinal Ratzinger and asked for his assistance in the matter. After the election of Benedict XVI, the new Pope told Cardinal George that he remembered their previous conversation and that he would attend to the matter.[4]

While Cardinal George has had to deal with the fallout from clergy sexual abuse cases from many years ago, he has come under fire for his actions during a recent abuse case. Cardinal George took some responsibility for the affair, saying, "The sins of priests and bishops destroy the Church, and I think that's what we're seeing here."[5]

McCormack affair[edit]

It is alleged that Rev. Daniel McCormack had abused two boys repeatedly from 2001 to 2005. Cardinal George has faced criticism for allowing McCormack to remain at his post after allegations first surfaced in August 2005. George has acknowledged that he had made mistakes in the case of the Rev. McCormack, who was charged with two counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse on January 21, 2006.

At the time prosecutors were not able to move forward because there was not enough evidence.[6] Instead, McCormack was told to not have any unsupervised contact with minors and had a personal monitor assigned to him. Cardinal George has since indicated that had he known several months ago what he knew now that he would've removed McCormack from his duties right away.

Despite claims of following the Church's procedures for dealing with child-molesting priests, diocesan authorities made no attempt to contact the police. Following this incident, the procedures for reporting abuse in Chicago were reportedly reevaluated by a panel and their importance was stressed.

Novels by Andrew Greeley[edit]

At the height of the Catholic Church sexual abuse scandal, author Andrew Greeley wrote The Priestly Sins (2004), a novel about a young priest from the Plains States who is exiled to an insane asylum and then to an academic life because he reports abuse that he has witnessed.[7]

Fall from Grace is a 1993 novel by Father Greeley. It is a story of sin and corruption in leading Irish Catholic families in Chicago and the cover up of child sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church.

Death of Francis Pellegrini[edit]

Francis Pellegrini was an organist and choirmaster at a south side Chicago church, as well as a sociology professor at a city college. He was murdered on May 30, 1984. He was found in his home, with his hands tied with barbed wire having suffered multiple stab wounds. A friend of Mr. Pellegrini and an author of several books on the topic, Fr. Andrew Greeley, claims Mr. Pellegrini had a gay affair with a priest who along with other unnamed priests allegedly abused underprivileged youths.[8] Fr. Andrew Greeley refuses to share any information about the incidents or the perpetrators, but claims to have evidence of wrongdoing.[9]

Fr. Greeley has referred to the group of predators in several of his books, and claims a broad conspiracy prevents the exposure of perpetrators. "There is no evidence against them because no one has complained about them and none of their fellow priests have denounced them," he wrote.[10]

Under Archbishop Cupich (2014–present)[edit]

Archbishop Cupich, dating back to his days in Rapid City, South Dakota and then Spokane, Washington, was an early supporter, like his predecessor Cardinal George had been of the zero-tolerance policy of excluding the lay and the ordained Catholics who engaged in any kind of sex abuse of minors- or those applying to ministry found to have done so- from ministry, and the notification of the authorities, and of how to deal with cases that involve the sacrament of Penance (where nothing at all can ordinarily be disclosed without very, very special procedures). In August 2015, he moved to suspend (remove faculties to perform the Sacraments) Octavio Munoz Capetillo, the Pastor of Saint Pancratius Parish, from all duties and to notify and cooperate with the authorities.[11]

All allegations made to the archdiocese of past or present conduct are reported to the Illinois States Attorney's office and if involving a current minor to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. Of these allegations, the archdiocese itself only investigates matters involving current priests for removal from the priesthood. All priests, employees and volunteers go through background checks every three years, and are trained in identifying and reporting requirements to the authorities for suspected abuse. Children also receive age appropriate training, according to the diocese. According to John O'Malley in 2015 the archdiocese special counsel, "he believes the archdiocese has reported every new case of sexual abuse to authorities since 2002 and provided files of older allegations going back decades."[2]

In response to the McCarrick-Vigano controversy the Pope called a bishops’ conference on abuse scheduled for 2019 and appointed Cardinal Cupich to the organizing committee.[12] In December 2018 the Attorney General of Illinois, who launched an investigation in summer 2018 in response to the Grand jury investigation of Catholic Church sexual abuse in Pennsylvania, issued a preliminary report in which she stated that alleged sexual abuse by some 500 priests in the six dioceses in Illinois, including the archdiocese, had not been properly investigated by the dioceses. According to the archdiocese, since 2002, it has reported to authorities all claims whether or not investigated by it, at the time the claims were made.[13][2] Prior to the Attorney General's investigation, only the archdiocese, and the Diocese of Joliet, had previously published any names of priests.[14] In response to the investigation, the archdiocese reversed a previous decision by Cardinal George and released 10 more names to its public list.[15]


  1. ^ Biography of Joseph Cardinal Bernardin Archived 2008-10-24 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ a b c Placek, Christopher (2015-01-04). "How the archdiocese is working to prevent abuse". Daily Herald. Retrieved 2018-12-21.
  3. ^ "Bernardin vindicated, says fellow bishop". Archived from the original on 2009-05-01. Retrieved 2009-04-30.
  4. ^ Cardinal lifts the veil on abuses
  5. ^ Cardinal George apologizes to disgruntled Chicago parishioners, January 31, 2006 Catholic News Agency. Accessed March 24, 2008.
  6. ^ Rev. Daniel McCormack : Accused priest was rising star
  7. ^ "The Priestly Sins, by Andrew M Greeley". Retrieved 26 November 2015.
  8. ^ Clerical abuse in US compounded by crimes and cover-ups Archived 2009-12-27 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ "Arson strikes parish of molester priest, slain choir director". Retrieved 26 November 2015.
  10. ^ Andrew Greeley challenged to expose predator ring Archived 2011-07-08 at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ "Statement on Father Octavio Munoz Capetillo - August 3, 2015 - Archdiocese of Chicago". Archived from the original on 23 September 2015. Retrieved 26 November 2015.
  12. ^ [1]
  13. ^ Burke, Daniel. "Illinois AG says Catholic Church failed to disclose abuse accusations against 500 priests". Retrieved 2018-12-21.
  14. ^ [2]
  15. ^ Herguth, Robert (2018-11-29). "10 names added to list of clergy with 'substantiated' sex misconduct allegations". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2018-12-21.