CHICAGO - The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services is asking the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago to turn over information on both old and new allegations of child abuse by priests, but says the church is reluctant to do so.
The church has an obligation to report all allegations, both past and present, to protect children, DCFS director Bryan Samuels said in letters to Cardinal Francis George.
"We think that looking at all those allegations is in the interest of kids and in the interest of the community at large," Samuels told the Chicago Tribune on Saturday. "The more information we have, the better we understand what has happened in the past, the greater likelihood we can prevent things from happening in the future."
A spokeswoman for the archdiocese said discussions between the church and DCFS are ongoing but cases of past allegations are closed for now. Pending allegations have been reported to prosecutors.
"They're the ones drawing a line in the sand as to what the absolutes are," said Colleen Dolan, the archdiocese's director of communications. "We've already brought in consultants to help with some of this stuff. Once (the investigators) give their response, once we have a more defined conversation with DCFS, we'll be in a better position to make that decision."
The archdiocese last week announced the appointment of two consultants to review procedures for handling child sex abuse allegations. Chancellor Jimmy Lago said the church would report abuse allegations to DCFS even if the alleged victim is now an adult, as long as the abuse took place when he or she was a minor.
Samuels said reporting all cases to DCFS will allow the names of the accused to be entered into a state registry that prohibits them from working with children.
DCFS also is concerned about how the archdiocese monitors priests who are removed from the ministry and placed at a retreat center in Mundelein, near Carmel Catholic High School.
"We don't know who they are, why they're there, what kind of therapy they're receiving, or who they have access to," Samuels said. "From a child welfare perspective, what the church is asking everyone to do is trust them. There's enough information out there and enough research finding about pedophiles that certainly suggests there's a high rate of recidivism."
David Clohessy of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests praised the stand being taken by DCFS.
"It would be so refreshing and reassuring to see Cardinal George just once voluntarily disclosing information about serial predators to a genuinely independent agency," Clohessy said.