(Photo: KK Cleland, Archdiocese of Chicago Catholic Schools)
A Roman Catholic Archdiocese plans to release its files on priests under its jurisdiction reported to have committed sexual abuse.
In a January edition of the Chicago Archdiocese's newspaper Catholic New World, Cardinal Francis George wrote that the files on 30 priests will be released as part of a legal settlement.
"All these incidents were reported over the years to the civil authorities and claims have been mediated civilly. Almost all of the incidents happened decades ago, perpetrated by priests whom neither I nor many younger clergy have ever met or talked to," wrote George. "Nevertheless, the publication puts the actions of these men and the archdiocese itself in the spotlight. Painful though publicly reviewing the past can be, it is part of the accountability and transparency to which the archdiocese is committed."
Cardinal George also wrote that the Archdiocese "is committed to trying to help victims of sexual abuse achieve the freedom necessary to live with dignity."
"The Archdiocesan Office for the Protection of Children and Youth is a ministry that brings hope and freedom to many victims. It is responsible for the extensive system of background checks and training in child protection that every employee and volunteer in the archdiocese must undergo," George stated. "Monetary recompense is part of helping victims and making reparation to them. The funding of sexual abuse settlements comes from a stream of revenue entirely separate from regular donations or investments."
Since the major media began to cover the priest abuse scandal within the Roman Catholic Church over a decade ago, calls have been made to hold the Church accountable. In response, some Catholic leaders have released files on priests guilty of sexual abuse as a way of being held accountable. For example, last November the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis announced the release of a list of priests accused of serious sexual misconduct.
"…the Archdiocese will be disclosing the names, locations and status of priests who are currently living in the Archdiocese, and who we know have substantiated claims against them of committing sexual abuse against minors. All of these men have been removed from ministry," wrote Archbishop Rev. John Nienstedt in an open letter.
David Clohessy, executive director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), told The Christian Post that the move on the part of the Archdiocese was primarily driven by external pressure.
"They have no choice. Wounded but brave victims of horrific child sex crimes and cover ups forced this disclosure. They had the strength to seek justice and the persistence to endure delays," said Clohessy.
Clohessy also told CP that he did not believe the recent announcement by Cardinal George was "progress by the archdiocese."
"It's happening only because Catholic officials are terrified of these cases going to trial, where the complicity of top archdiocesan staffers would be laid bare for all to see," said Clohessy. "The church hierarchy, in Chicago and elsewhere, continues to reveal its secrets about predator priests and complicit bishops only when compelled to do so by determined external forces, whether aggressive journalists, brave victims, savvy police, or persistence prosecutors."