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Cardinal George to review abuse policy
Cardinal George to review abuse policy

CHICAGO - The leader of Chicago's Catholic archdiocese has vowed to work with authorities and state officials to revise an investigation process "that wasn't adequate" and says he should have removed a priest charged with abusing three boys much sooner. Saying he feels "troubled and confused," Cardinal Francis George indicated the archdiocese would announce changes as early as next week to remove priests immediately after allegations are made. Under the current policy, allegations are investigated before priests can be removed.

George, speaking at a news conference at Holy Name Cathedral on Thursday, also said he wants to consult with the state Department of Children and Family Services on how to make sure communities are notified of suspended priests.

"I thought that we had the process … to take care of these things," George said. "Now, it turns out it wasn't adequate, that I wasn't adequate."

The announcement came hours after the Rev. Daniel McCormack was released on $300,000 bond.

McCormack's case has drawn criticism because he was not removed from public ministry until months after allegations against him first surfaced.

"I should have found some way to take him out (sooner)," George said. "I wasn't vigilant enough in that case. I was too used to following the process."

McCormack, 37, was charged last month with two counts of aggravated sexual abuse and was charged on Wednesday with a third count. After Thursday's hearing, his bond in the case totals $500,000.

The Cook County Sheriff's department said McCormack's bail in both cases was provided by family members.

McCormack, wearing a blue Notre Dame hooded sweat shirt, stood silently before Cook County Judge Douglas Simpson on Thursday as his attorney, Patrick Reardon, proclaimed his innocence and questioned whether the high bond was due to the news media attention the case has received.

Simpson denied that allegation, saying the nature of the case justified the bond amount.

"I'm not at all impressed by the media coverage. It could be a full courtroom, it could be an empty courtroom, it wouldn't matter," Simpson said. "These new allegations significantly change the posture of this case."

In arguing for a high bond, Assistant Cook County State's Attorney Kathleen Muldoon said McCormack has lied about his identity to police on at least one occasion since allegations against him were made last August. She did not provide any details of the incident.

The nation's third-largest Roman Catholic diocese has said it is investigating the allegations against McCormack, who was removed from public ministry Jan. 21, the day he was charged with the molestation of the first two boys.

Church parents and other critics have said McCormack should have been removed sooner. The archdiocese has acknowledged that one of the charges stems from an allegation of sexual abuse first made in August.

The latest charges against McCormack involve an 11-year-old boy who was not a parishioner at St. Agatha's Church, where McCormack served as pastor, Muldoon said.

She said the boy ran errands for McCormack and frequently visited the rectory, where the priest allegedly fondled him under his clothes and gave him gifts of money. Muldoon said the alleged abuse occurred between Oct. 26, 2004, and Dec. 31, 2005.

The archdiocese also is investigating accusations against the Rev. Joe Bennett, who was removed Tuesday from Holy Ghost Church in South Holland.

Incidents involving Bennett allegedly took place more than 35 years ago and involved more than one minor, archdiocese spokesman Jim Dwyer has said.

Allegations against Bennett first were made about two years ago, but no action was taken against the priest. Dwyer has said it is a "very complicated case."

Police officials said there had been no arrests in the Bennett case.

Associated Press writer F.N. D'Alessio contributed to this report.

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