After decades of accusations against the Archdiocese of Chicago, victims of childhood sexual abuse at the hands of priests in local parishes have a small victory. In January 2014, thousands of personnel records were finally released to the public. These files contain horrific stories of sexual abuse and molestation that plagued young boys and girls in the Catholic Church here in Chicago.
A Long Fight For Chicago Victims
The recent releasing of these records has taken years of fighting to accomplish. Although most of the abuse detailed in these files happened many years earlier, the Archdiocese of Chicago had still fought to keep them under lock and key. Other dioceses across the country had already been legally required to release these records, including landmark cases in Los Angeles and Oregon.
The stories in these records give a clear view of the abuse that was happening in the Catholic Church and how it was quietly covered up by church officials. It is not just the horrible stories of sexual abuse and molestation against children, but the way that the Church handled these accusations. Now, over half of the priests that have records of abuse in these files have died, while the rest are either incarcerated or have been removed from their duties within the church. However, many only recently have left the church.
- Father Bennett, who had many accusations against him, only resigned from the Church in 2012
- Father Fitzharris, who admitted to abusing several young boys, was only removed in 2009
- Father Cloutier was investigated in 1979 for rape and threatening his victim with murder, remained a priest until 1993
Many of the victims of this long history of sexual abuse have already come forward, many of them receiving monetary settlements for their cases. However, the release of these records may encourage others to come forward and finally tell their story. The Archdiocese of Chicago has already paid over $100 million to victims, many from the 65 priests that were identified by the Archdiocese as credibly accused of abuse. 30 of these priests are the subject of ongoing negotiations for victims that are currently in the settlement process of their lawsuits.
The release of these records was certainly long overdue, but with their release hopefully many victims that have already come forward will have some sense of closure. Knowing that the church is finally willing to admit and pay for the mistakes of the past is a step in the right direction for healing. Although no amount of money or apologies can ever erase the pain that was caused by both the priests that committed the crimes and the officials that helped protect them, having this acknowledgment of the crimes can be viewed as a positive, if much overdue, step forward.