Chicago • The release of 6,000 pages of documents from the Archdiocese of Chicago casts new light on how the church dealt with a mounting sex abuse scandal involving priests. The records were made public Tuesday by lawyers for some victims after a legal settlement. Below are excerpts from the documents regarding some of the archdiocese’s more well-known accused priests:
Rev. Robert E. Mayer
Robert E. Mayer was accused in a 1983 lawsuit of exposing himself to several altar boys from St. Edna’s in Arlington Heights during a lake outing and trying to fondle two boys.
While that litigation was pending, another priest at the church, Rev. John J. Hurley, wrote to the archdiocese to say the mother of one alleged victim felt "the law firm of the Archdiocese is steamrolling over her and her husband." The mother, he continued, suspected the church’s strategy was to draw out the litigation until the financial strain became too much for the family.
"She feels powerless," the letter said. "She feels hurt and sad and rejected."
The priest recommended various options, including a face-to-face meeting between the family and then-Cardinal Joseph Bernardin. Hurley wrote, "It might well be a healing experience if the plaintiffs met a warm human being."
Revs. Kenneth C. Ruge and Robert C. Becker
Kenneth C. Ruge and Robert C. Becker allegedly worked in tandem, taking children on camping trips in the 1980s and abusing them inside an RV. They would turn off the RV’s heat as a pretext for climbing into bed naked with the boys to keep them warm, church documents said.
Becker was a top canon lawyer for the archdiocese and worked at multiple parishes over decades. Ruge was relieved of duties at Norridge’s Divine Savior parish in 1991, after which Bernardin wrote to him, striking a reassuring tone.
"Ken," he wrote, "be assured that you have a special place in my daily prayers ... I will do everything possible to help you."
As Ruge lay on his deathbed in 2002, a letter addressed to him from a victim’s relatives said they hoped he "would suffer as much as possible now before burning in hell." He died shortly after, never seeing the letter because he was semi-comatose, at age 64.
Rev. Vincent E. McCaffrey
Vincent E. McCaffrey was accused of molesting more than a dozen children, some of them hundreds of times. Once, he allegedly tried to run over a victim with his car when the child fled from an attack.
In 1980, the head pastor at McCaffrey’s church, Our Lady of Loretto in Hometown, sent a scathing letter to the archdiocese — copying in then-Cardinal John Cody — letting them know the parents of a boy had gone to police with abuse claims. The Rev. James O’Connor wrote, "The police in Hometown have been very good in keeping the situation quiet."
In a 1989 letter to Bernardin, the vicar for priests also said several prominent parishioners had received an anonymous phone call that McCaffrey sexually abused boys.
"We all agreed that the best thing would be for Vince to move," Raymond Goedert wrote. "We don’t know if the anonymous caller will strike again."
Rev. William J. Cloutier
Throughout the 1980s, the Catholic Church applied a policy of therapy and reinstatement, even in the case of William J. Cloutier, a priest at St. Damian’s in Oak Forest who was accused of sodomizing a 13-year-old and later threatening him at gunpoint if he dared tell anyone.
Church documents reveal officials had several prior complaints against Cloutier, but took no action other than confronting him and accepting that he "sounded repentant." Upon returning to active ministry after about a year of therapy, Cloutier was accused of abusing other children, and church documents show he was placed under monitoring in 1987.Next Page >
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