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'Gut-Wrenching' Chicago Clergy Abuse Documents Go Online

Thousands of pages of what were once secret church documents related to the way the Archdiocese of Chicago dealt with 30 priests who it believes abused children in the '70s, '80s and '90s are now online.

They give "an unprecedented and gut-wrenching look at how the Archdiocese of Chicago for years failed to protect children from abusive priests," writes the Chicago Tribune.

They also "provide new details and insights into how the nation's third-largest archdiocese quietly shuttled accused priests from parish to parish and failed to notify police of child abuse allegations," the Tribune adds.

The papers "cover only 30 of the at least 65 clergy for whom the archdiocese says it has substantiated claims of child abuse," The Associated Press says.

The Chicago Sun-Times says that "conspicuously absent in many of the more than 6,000 pages of documents were any signs that many of the allegations were ever immediately reported to law enforcement authorities for their investigation."

The Sun-Times also reports that among the revelations are that:

-- "Vincent McCaffrey, who was ultimately sentenced to 20 years for child pornography, had been allowed by [Cardinal Joseph] Bernardin and [Cardinal John] Cody to remain in ministry and relocate to other parishes after allegations of abuse."

-- "Bernardin agreed to appoint Robert Mayer as pastor of a Berwyn church after multiple allegations of sexual abuse were levied against him."

-- "The late priest Robert Becker, who at times was accused of abusing in tandem with the late priest Kenneth Ruge, was moved following allegations. Among one of the multiple allegations was abuse against three children in one family."

Cody died in 1982. Bernardin, Cody's successor, died in 1996. Cardinal Francis George has led the Chicago Archdiocese since April 1997.

Click here to go to the website of the Chicago law firm that has posted the materials. As we wrote last week, the archdiocese turned them over to the firm, which represents many of the victims. The victims' attorneys have previously said that none of the abuse detailed in the documents happened after 1996, the Tribune notes.

NPR's David Schaper has more on Tuesday's All Things Considered.

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Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.
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