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Is ‘Zero Tolerance’ Charter On Priest Sex Abuse Working, 10 Years Later?

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(Credit: Tim Boyle/Getty Images)

(Credit: Tim Boyle/Getty Images)

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CHICAGO (CBS) — Ten years ago in Dallas, American Catholic bishops responded to an exploding priest sex abuse scandal with a “zero tolerance” charter.

Now as WBBM Newsradio’s Bernie Tafoya reports, there are those who see the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops “Charter on the Protection of Children and Youth” as a success and those who don’t.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Bernie Tafoya reports

Barbara Blaine, president of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, bishops continue to break the zero tolerance charter because there are no consequences.

Locally, she points to child predator former priest Daniel McCormack. She says, Cardinal Francis George had information, “knew McCormack was a predator, left him in ministry, even gave him a promotion.”

Archdiocese chancellor Jim Lago calls the Fr. McCormack case, “the exception”. He says any allegation that comes in whether current or from years ago is reported to civil authorities, to the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office and the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.

Lago says one of the things Cardinal George “is insistent upon” is that “every single case where there’s been a credible allegation of child abuse, that priest is out of ministry”.

He says, “This is not part of the church’s DNA somehow that it feels that it’s okay to abuse children.:

Lago says independent reviews of the archdiocese’ have found the archdiocese following the bishops’ charter. “What they all say clearly is that in areas of prevention, training of children and screening—background checks, fingerprinting of anyone who works with children, the formation in the seminaries…and Chicago’s been particularly good in the area of victim assistance ministry. We reach out, work with victims groups to create a healing garden on the Near West Side”.

Lago says, financially, the priest sex abuse scandal has cost the Catholic Church in Chicago about 100 million dollars. He says about 75 million dollars of that was in settlements to victims.

Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke was among prominent lay Catholics asked to be part of a National Review Board to watch over how the U-S Catholic bishops were carrying out the charter.

She and others even personally told now-Pope Benedict what needed to be done and 10 years later, Burke does not like what she’s seen–with continued examples of priests abusing children and higher ups allegedly covering it up.

She says being on the National Review Board turned out to be “window dressing” and says of the bishops move to pass the zero tolerance charter, “The strategy is not unlike politics. Let’s get into the war room. Let’s think about what we have to do with damage control.”

Justice Burke says she’s hopeful for the Church, though. “We need to remember we’re part of God’s church too. We have a leadership role to play..and the laity needs to come to grips with that …even in spite of the fact that the formal, administrative church doesn’t want us.”

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