Chicago Cardinal Francis George spent the better part of today answering questions under oath. George gave a formal deposition for a group of civil cases against the archdiocese related to former priest and convicted child sex offender Daniel McCormack. At issue is how much Cardinal George knew about sexual abuse allegations against McCormick and why he chose to keep the priest on after allegations surfaced.
McCormack pled guilty in 2007 to three counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a minor and served time in a state mental health facility. On May 22 he was arrested again on new sexual abuse charges.
George gave his deposition at the law office of Burke, Warren, MacKay & Serritella, P.C. It could serve as his official testimony – in lieu of testifying as a witness due to his physical condition.
The archdiocese has previously released documents related to 30 cases of priest sex abuse but has kept all McCormack documents sealed.
The Survivor’s Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) say those documents and today’s deposition should be public record. There may in fact be information in those files that could lead to investigations and indictments of other archdiocesan employees, says SNAP member Barbara Blaine.
“We think they’re trying to keep them secret and hidden as long as possible, the same way we believe they held out on giving this deposition as long and late as possible," Blaine says.
The Archdiocese says the deposition is a routine part of the court process and content of such deposition is covered by a protective order issued by the judge. That protective order covers all of the information discovered in the case, according the Archdiocese.
Allegations of sexual abuse first surfaced against McCormack in the late 1990s. In 2005, he was arrested but not charged near the same time George promoted McCormack to be a dean at St. Agatha’s Church on the city’s West Side.
Also around the same time period, an archdiocese review board voted 6-1 to have McCormack removed from the priesthood but George did not follow their advice. He kept McCormack on until another arrest and subsequent charges in 2006.
A letter to priests George penned several months ago explaining that the church had tried to look into the McCormack allegations may shed some insight on how George responded to today’s questions.
The following is from the George letter:
“The investigation was hampered because the various offices involved did not consistently share what they knew with each other or with me. Nor did the civil authorities share with the Archdiocese what they came to know in their investigations. From the time he was arrested and released to the time that he was arrested a second time and eventually pled guilty, no one involved in investigating the allegation, not even the review board that struggled with their justified concerns, told me they thought he was guilty.”
George goes on to say, “The response, in retrospect, was not always adequate to all the facts, but a mistake is not a cover up … .”
Blaine is not buying the explanation. “Cardinal George had information that Father McCormack was credibly accused, the Department of Children and Family Services had made that determination, they’d given that information to the archdiocese and Cardinal George,” she says.
“The archdiocese and Cardinal George decided to leave Father McCormack in ministry. As a result, children’s lives were shattered.”
Attorneys for the plaintiffs and the archdiocese were not available for comment. The deposition is scheduled to continue on June 3.
For the Record:
The Archdiocese sent a response on May 30 to Barbara Blaine’s comment from Paris Schutz's report. Below is their response:
"The Department of Children and Family Services did NOT notify the Archdiocese it was conducting an investigation or the results of it. They did not follow their own protocols which had required them to notify the Archdiocese of their results. They sent their conclusion to Daniel McCormack only not Cardinal George."
View a timeline of Chicago native Cardinal Francis George's career:
Chicago Tonight: Cardinal George to be Deposed in McCormack Case
Chicago Tonight: Cardinal Francis George goes one-on-one with Phil Ponce
Chicago Tonight: Cardinal George: Death 'Not Imminent'