Chicago Tribune op-ed: Public schools can learn from Catholics in handling sex abuse

Chicago, Ill., Jul 2, 2019 / 04:43 pm (CNA).- After an investigative series by the Chicago Tribune uncovered numerous cases of sexual abuse and cover-up in the city’s public schools, a local commentator is looking to the Archdiocese of Chicago as an example of putting safeguards for children into practice.

In an article last week, Kristen McQueary, a columnist and member of the Chicago Tribune editorial board, highlighted the scandal surrounding Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and the need for greater transparency regarding sexual abuse there.

Police investigated 523 reports that children were sexually assaulted or abused inside city public schools from 2008 to 2017, or an average of one report each week, McQueary reported.

“Former Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Public Schools officials for months fought records requests from Tribune reporters on sexual assaults within schools,” she said.

“CPS only relented under threat of a lawsuit…It was not an exercise in protecting students.”

Illinois House Bill 3687, which made it to Governor J.B. Pritzker’s desk June 28, is a bipartisan effort to ensure that the superintendent of schools, school administrator, or other employer is notified if a school employee is being prosecuted for sexual abuse.

“The [public school] scandal forced a reckoning at CPS more than 25 years after the Archdiocese of Chicago began to acknowledge and take steps to hold priests and other religious personnel accountable for allegations of sexual abuse and assault against children within its schools and institutions,” McQueary noted.

She pointed out that the archdiocese has conducted background checks on priests, staff, volunteers and any parent or coach who might come into contact with a student; has removed priests with substantiated allegations of abuse; and continues to publish a list of accused clergy, though the page was not available on the Archdiocese’ website as of press time.

“CPS still has not publicly identified the majority of adults in its system who have been accused of wrongdoing, and the new law awaiting Pritzker’s signature does not require that disclosure, even if an educator gets disciplined by the state,” McQueary said, suggesting that CPS officials should be calling for an additional bill to address those concerns.

Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago met with the tribune’s editorial board on June 24.

The Chicago Tribune had previously reported that an independent review of the Archdiocese of Chicago’s policies on child sexual abuse, commissioned by the archdiocese, found that church officials needed to improve how they spot, report and discipline “boundary violations” and other behavior that could lead to abuse.

A spokesperson for Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul said in June that the state is “continuing to investigate abuse in the Catholic Church across the state,” the Tribune reported.

Cardinal Blase Cupich has faced criticism from former Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, whose office identified 690 clergy members in Illinois accused of abuse, compared with 185 credible allegations identified by the Church. Madigan’s report did not distinguish based on credibility of individual claims.

The Archdiocese of Chicago maintains that it has, for more than a decade, reported all allegations of child sex abuse to authorities and published the names of all diocesan priests with substantiated allegations against them.

 

 

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