Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Pedopriests in 60% of Chicago parishes
Advocacy Groups: 60% of Chicago Parishes Had Predator Priests
Last October, a cooperative study among Chicago advocacy groups showed that more than half of Chicago’s parishes had employed priests accused of sexual abuse. Members of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP,) African American Advocates for Victims of Clergy and Sexual Abuse, and Voice of the Faithful found that publicly accused priests have worked in nearly 60% of Chicago parishes.

The study and statistical analyses were carried out by VOTF and SNAP advocates using official church directories listing priests and their assignments, as well as the Archdiocese of Chicago website and USPS ZIP code information. (VOTF.) The study also relied on the Bishop Accountability website, a widely respected source on accused clergy. The groups spent five years combing through data. They believe that the number of unreported cases could make the number even larger.

“The key word is ‘publicly accused’” said SNAP founder and president Barbara Blaine. “History, psychology and common sense tell us there are dozens and dozens of other offending nuns, seminarians, brothers, priests, bishops and lay employees who have molested or are molesting kids now whose identities are not known” (Huffiington Post.)

In total, 97 priests have been publicly accused of sexual abuse in Chicago from 1917-2009. A total of 256 out of roughly 400 Chicago dioceses parishes had an accused priest working there during this time frame. (Voice of the Faithful.)

Bob Kopp, vice president of Chicago Voice of the Faithful told the Chicago Times that, between 1980 and 1990, 57.7 percent of Chicago parishes employed an accused priest. That number is dropping, but it is still alarmingly high: According to the study, one in five institutions had a “credibly accused priest” in residence as of 2009. The study does not say how many priests were convicted of sexual assault.

Kopp said that the study showed the same parishes employing multiple accused priests over the years, and Blaine claimed that “poor parishes and minority parishes have a disproportionately high percentage of problem priests.” (Huffington Post.) According to FoxChicago, Bridgeport, West Town, Lincoln Park, and Garfield Ridge have the highest concentration of cases.

In light of this report, VOTF national vice president Janet Hauter said that the Archdiocese owes Chicago Catholics some answers:

“This study raises deeply troubling questions about the way credibly accused priests were sent to parishes and residences. The concentrations of assignments in certain areas, the clustering of multiple pedophiles in the same place, and the total absence of assignments to parishes or institutions in other areas, all suggest that assignments were not made strictly in response to changing pastoral needs.”

A spokeswoman for the Chicago diocese said that while church official have not seen the study, they question the results. “From the description of what we have heard, it appears the analysis and conclusions are questionable,” said Colleen Dolan. (Huffington Post)

The archdiocese has dealt with a number of high-profile suits, including a 2008 verdict in which the Diocese agreed to pay $12.6 million to settle with 16 victims of sexual abuse by priests over three decades (Catholic News Service.)

In the wake of the international priest abuse sandal numerous groups have formed to advocate for victims of abuse. SNAP is perhaps the most wide-reaching, but VOTF also seems to fill an important role. The goals of VOTF are to “support survivors, support priests of integrity, and work towards structural change in the church.”

For its part, the Chicago Archdiocese has created an Office for Protection of Children and Youth in an attempt to curb priest abuse. On their website, the Diocese explains its policies and procedures in a straightforward and transparent manner.

Dolan Law supports efforts of transparency on both sides in confronting this grave problem. By speaking up and being heard, victims of priest abuse are ensuring that what is done in the dark will come to light.

Religious or not, it is our responsibility as human beings to ensure individuals are treated with dignity and respect. If you or a loved one has suffered clergy abuse, we want to fight for you. Dolan Law is on your side.

-Steven Flores

Sources Attributed

Catholic News Service. “Chicago Archdiocese to pay $12.6 million to 16 sex abuse survivors.” 5 Sept 2008.

Huffington Post. ”Priest Abuse in Chicago: Study Shows Nearly 60% Of Chicago Parishes Had Pedophile Priests.” Posted 10/12/10.

Voice of the Faithful. “New Study of Chicago Clergy Raises Troubling Questions About Assignment of Credibly Accused Perodphiles.” 11 Oct 2010.

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