Chicago’s Roman Catholic Church has paid $12.6 million to settle 16 sexual abuse claims against 10 priests and a school principal. Over the past 30 years the Chicago Archdiocese has paid approximately $65 million towards settling 250 such claims against the clergy, most involving child victims. A few dozen more cases remain on the Chicago court’s docket.
Such sexual abuse cases against priests began surfacing in 1992 in Boston. Since that time the U.S. Catholic Church has paid almost $2 billion to settle these claims.
What is unique about the recent Chicago cases is that Cardinal George, the Archbishop of Chicago, agreed to release the transcript of his eight-hour deposition. According to the victims’ lawyer, “the release of [Cardinal George’s] deposition today is a significant step toward openness and transparency and helps the survivors and the church community in healing and recovery.” To date Cardinal George is the highest-ranking church official to ever give a legal deposition.
The release of George’s deposition also demonstrates a changing trend towards openness. During the mediation process the Chicago church shared documents and information and cooperated with the special procedures created for the mediation. When the sex scandal first broke in 1992 it came to light that church leaders were covering for the abusive priests. Critics have accused the church of being secretive and mismanaging the sexual abuse claims. As head of the second-largest archdiocese in America the hope is that this secretiveness is over and the quest for truth is unhindered.
Furthermore, Cardinal George issued a formal apology, stating:
I apologize again today to the survivors and their families and to the whole Catholic community. We must continue to do everything in our power to ensure the safety of the children in our care.
Of the ten Chicago priests accused, two have died and two others are in prison. In their public statement the Chicago Archdiocese released the names and status of all the accused priests, all of whom are no longer associated with the Catholic Church.