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Archdiocese releases documents detailing sexual abuse by priests

Vince McCaffrey, left, and Robert Mayer were accused of multiple incidents of sexual abuse.

Vince McCaffrey, left, and Robert Mayer were accused of multiple incidents of sexual abuse.

The Archdiocese of Chicago took steps to conceal sexual abuse by serial abusers, promoted and moved priests with multiple accusations against them and had victims making the allegations investigated, archdiocese documents released Tuesday reveal.

The documents cover abuse allegations against 30 priests that surfaced under the leadership of Cardinals John Cody, Joseph Bernardin and Francis George.

Conspicuously absent in many of the more than 6,000 pages of documents were any signs that many of the allegations were ever immediately reported to law enforcement authorities for their investigation.

Among the revelations in the documents:

  • Vincent McCaffrey, who was ultimately sentenced to 20 years for child pornography, had been allowed by Bernardin and Cody to remain in ministry and relocate to other parishes after allegations of abuse. McCaffrey ultimately admitted to molesting more than a dozen victims between 1976 and 1990. He wasn’t defrocked until 2010.
  • Bernardin agreed to appoint Robert Mayer as pastor of a Berwyn church after multiple allegations of sexual abuse were levied against him. The promotion was supported by the church’s board of vicars. After more allegations surfaced, Bernardin forced him to resign.
  • The late priest Robert Becker, who at times was accused of abusing in tandem with the late priest Kenneth Ruge, was moved following allegations. Among one of the multiple allegations was abuse against three children in one family.

The documents were released by attorneys Jeff Anderson and Marc Pearlman, who represent clients who sued the archdiocese over abuse allegations and won settlements. The legal action resulted in an agreement for the archdiocese to release the documents to them.

Of the 30 priests included, 14 are dead and the remainder are no longer in ministry, according to the archdiocese. About 95 percent of the reported allegations occurred before 1988, and none occurred after 1996, it said.

Just before turning the documents over to attorneys last week, Bishop Francis Kane, vicar general of the archdiocese, said mistakes were made, but there was no intent to cover up.

But 62-year-old Joseph Iacono, who said he was abused by the late Rev. Thomas Kelly 50 years ago in Northlake, said “that’s very hard for me to digest.”

According to the archdiocese, before 1992, employees were expected to report sexual misconduct as part of “general personnel management,” spokeswoman Susan Burritt said in a statement. “It was not the subject of formal policy.”

Since 2002, allegations of sexual misconduct are reported immediately to civil authorities, and no priest with one substantiated allegation of sexual abuse of a minor can serve in public ministry.

Pearlman and Anderson will hold a press conference Tuesday. All documents will be available online at www.abusedinchicago.com and www.andersonadvocates.com, they said.

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