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Vatican Faces Lawsuit Over Sexual Abuse By Chicago Priest

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Daniel McCormack

The former Rev. Daniel McCormack pleaded guilty in 2007 to sexually abusing boys. (Credit: CBS)

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UPDATED: 5/11/2011 7:24 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS/WBBM) – A lawsuit was filed Wednesday against the Roman Catholic Church – specifically, the Vatican – over a former priest who molested young boys on the city’s West Side.

Attorneys are calling the litigation a child sex abuse and cover-up lawsuit. CBS 2’s Vince Gerasole reports.

The former Rev. Daniel McCormack was an agent of the Vatican by collecting money for Peter’s Pence, a special collection at mass that benefits the Vatican directly.

The lawsuit contends the Vatican should be held accountable, because McCormack kept being promoted, even though all the while, higher-ups in the Church knew there were child sex abuse allegations swirling about him.

A lawyer for the Vatican says there’s no merit to a lawsuit claiming the Holy See helped cover up child sexual abuse by a Chicago priest.

Jeffrey Lena says the lawsuit filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court “rehashes the same tired theories already rejected by U.S. courts.”

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Steve Miller reports

The scandal surrounding McCormack erupted in January 2006, when he was first criminally charged with molesting five boys while working as pastor of St. Agatha Church, 3147 W. Douglas Blvd.

Immediately after McCormack was charged, Francis Cardinal George and the Chicago Archdiocese faced sharp criticism for not removing him from ministry upon the first allegations of abuse several months earlier.

Allegations against McCormack had first surfaced in August 2005. Then in October of that year, a church review board that had been looking into the accusations recommended that McCormack be removed from his post. But that did not happen until the criminal charges against him were brought three months later.

Advocates for priest abuse survivors said the lack of action kept McCormack in a position where he could continue to have contact with children, up until the charges were levied.

At the time, Cardinal George conceded that he should have launched an investigation against McCormack sooner. In early February 2006, he issued a letter of apology that said “our response… was sorely inadequate.”

The Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests later called for Cardinal George to resign over the scandal. But the Archdiocese said the group had no authority to make any such demand, and that the cardinal would not be resigning.

The controversy continued after McCormack pleaded guilty in 2007. At that point, critics said his plea deal spared the archdiocese embarrassing testimony about mismanagement and foot-dragging in the case, and accused the church of being secretive.

McCormack spent 2 1/2 years in prison. He was technically paroled, but he is still being held in a state mental health facility, while he awaits trial on whether he should be put away indefinitely as a sexually violent predator.

In August 2008, the Archdiocese settled with victims of abuse of McCormack and other priests. The settlements totaled $12.675 million.

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