- The Washington Times - Friday, January 17, 2003

CHICAGO, Jan. 17 (UPI) — Roman Catholic Cardinal Francis George has released a report citing 36 priests for sexual abuse and saying the scandal has cost the Archdiocese of Chicago $16.8 million.

The report does not list the priests by name but George said none is currently in the ministry.

What the report, which was released Thursday, said was the church had found 55 "credible allegations" involving the 36 priests and stretching back 40 years. None of the allegations occurred in the past decade. The report also cites a 1999 incident involving a deacon.

The report is the second issued by a U.S. archdiocese since the national scandal involving sexual misconduct by priests broke last year. Baltimore issued its report last fall.

Archdiocese Chancellor Jimmy Lago said the $16.8 million was paid mostly through the sale of undeveloped, non-parish real estate. Only $1 million has come from collection plates and the archdiocese plans to replace that and not dip into collections again.

"Chicago did face up to its terrible scandal 10 years ago," George said. "… I inherited a very good situation in many ways."

The late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin was accused of sexual abuse by a man who had been one of his students in the Cincinnati archdiocese. The accuser recanted, saying his therapist had implanted false memories and a different priest actually was involved.

The allegations along with a breaking scandal in downstate Belleville, near St. Louis, prompted Bernardin to institute a series of reforms to deal with the problem.

Of the 36 priests, eight are dead, nine have resigned and 19 have been removed from the ministry.

The archdiocese has paid $7.9 million to victims and spent $4.6 million on treatment for abusive priests and $4.3 million on legal fees.

George also announced he was releasing victims who signed confidentiality agreements from their promises and the church no longer would require such agreements as part of any settlement.

Barbara Blaine, co-founder of the Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests, called the report "a step in the right direction of openness."

"I feel they are continuing the pattern of secrecy by refusing to release the names," she told the Chicago Sun-Times.

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