November 6, 2014 / 2:10 PM / in 4 years

Chicago Archdiocese releases files on 36 abusive priests

CHICAGO (Reuters) - The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago released on Thursday internal files of 36 priests who church officials found had sexually abused children.

Angel Santiago is comforted by his wife Vanaessa as he speaks during a news conference where thousands of documents on victims of sexual abuse by Roman Catholic clergy from the Chicago Archdiocese were released in Chicago, January 21, 2014. REUTERS/Jim Young

The files, which were released online, and other documents released in January show how the archdiocese dealt with abuse allegations during the past six decades, including the practice of moving priests accused of abuse to new parishes.

As part of a mediation agreement, the archdiocese in January released files on 30 former priests accused of abusing minors. Lawyers for victims had said at the time they wanted the archdiocese to release documents on more than 30 other priests.

Thursday’s release, which comes less than two weeks before the retirement of Cardinal Francis George, is the latest in a series of such abuse disclosures by Midwest church officials.

“As we said in January, we are committed to transparency with the people we serve,” George said in the statement. “We cannot change the past but we hope we can rebuild trust through honest and open dialogue. Child abuse is a crime and a sin. The Archdiocese of Chicago is concerned first and foremost with bringing healing to abuse victims.”

None of those named in Thursday’s scheduled document release is still in active ministry and 14 have died, the archdiocese said. Ninety-two percent of the cases occurred prior to 1988.

All the priests in the document release had previously been identified by the archdiocese as having substantiated abuse allegations against them. Internal documents on two other priests were not released due to pending legal proceedings.

Child sex abuse allegations have cost the U.S. church some $3 billion in settlements in the past two decades.

The release included 15,000 pages, showing when allegations were made and how church officials responded.

For example, a 1963 letter from a church chancellor reports a “rather serious accusation” against then-priest Alexander Baranowski in 1963. Other charges of abuse were later made.

But Baranowski was moved to two other parishes after the accusation. He resigned, was laicized in 1976, and has since died.

David Clohessy, director of SNAP, or the Survivor’s Network of those Abused by Priests, said it was “extraordinarily irresponsible” for church officials to keep the information hidden for decades.

“Church officials harp on healing,” Clohessy said. “Healing is secondary. Prevention is primary. And disclosure is only one small step towards prevention.”

Reporting by Mary Wisniewski; Editing by Bill Trott

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