Your NPR news source

Chicago Priest Pleads Guilty to Sex Abuse

SHARE Chicago Priest Pleads Guilty to Sex Abuse

A Chicago priest accused of molesting children has pleaded guilty to five counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse.

The judge sentenced Daniel McCormack to five years in prison.

He had originally pleaded not guilty when prosecutors first charged him in early 2006.

Chicago Public Radio's religion reporter Jason DeRose has more.

Until yesterday, details of the abuse were hard to come by.

But as part of Daniel McCormack's plea agreement, prosecutors read aloud each victim's story.

The scenarios were remarkably similar: each victim was between eight and twelve years old during the time of the abuse.

They were all members of St. Agatha Parish or students at the Catholic school where McCormack taught and coached basketball.

The priest would lure his victims to the sacristy, the rectory or school offices.

And in those private places, McCormack fondled the five young boys.

Afterwards, he would offer them gifts or money to keep quiet.

One victim, known only by the initials S-Y, was molested nearly every day between September of 2005 and mid-January of 2006.

BOLIKER: When you look at what the statistics say one victim many times equals multiple victims.

Shauna Boliker is the Assistant States Attorney who was one of the prosecutors in the case.
BOLIKER: We're very proud of the courage of these five children who came forward and and you know said what happened to them and talked about the horrific events at the hand of, you know, a man they trusted. 
Neither the defense attorneys nor Daniel McCormack's family would speak to reporters.

After sentencing McCormack, Judge Thomas Sumner asked him if he wanted to say anything.

He did not.

McCormack was charged with a class 2 felony because the boys were fondled but not raped.

The maximum sentence would have been 7 years.

Prosecutor Kathleen Muldoon says five years for a crime such as this is a good sentence.

MULDOON: There's nothing lost by not going to trial. If anything it spares our victims from having to stand up in public and explain to them these very private matters.

In the courtroom sat more than a dozen members of various lay catholic groups.

They wore red shirts with the sayings "No More Silent Catholics" and "Come Holy Spirit, Guide Us to Truth"

Among them was Sandra Stilling Seehausen, with Voice of the Faithful.

STILLING SEEHAUSEN: Is there any punishment severe enough you know what about we'd have to ask the families that. I don't know that there would be any amount of time that would be severe enough for the ravage that he has done to these children.

PEARLMAN: I believe it is a good day it is an important day and my only regret is that it would have been nice to see all of the information go public that I believe that the Archdiocese of Chicago has had for decades about McCormack and other that they've continued to keep secret.
Marc Pearlman is an attorney representing two of the victims.

He says a trial would have forced greater transparency on the part of the church. And that could have saved others.

Now, the archdiocese says it will begin the process of removing Daniel McCormack from the priesthood.

What makes this case noteworthy is that the abuse was taking place up until mid-January of 2006.

Most cases have involved older instances of abuse in which the statutes of limitation have run out.

The church came under fire during this case because it knew McCormack had been arrested and was under investigation months before it removed him from the parish or notified the principal of the school where he taught.

Cardinal Francis George has apologized for that mistake.
Because of this case, the Archdiocese has revised, once again, its guidelines for dealing with sexual abuse.

Now, a priest is removed from parish ministry as soon as an allegation is made, rather than waiting for an investigation.

Back in the court room, when prosecutors read aloud the abuse details of the victim known as D-J, a woman began to sob.

She was D-J's mother.

He was eight at the time of the abuse.

Understandably, she declined to speak with reporters.

But as she walked out of the court house at 26th and California, she gave a thumbs up to the prosecutors.

I'm  Jason DeRose, Chicago Public Radio.

More From This Show