Church abuse scandal: How much did Cardinal George know?

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Thousands of documents detailing Catholic priests in Chicago took advantage of the children were finally released to the public Tuesday.

But what did Cardinal Francis George know? And could he have done more?


Daniel McCormack was once a rising star. With time, however, his luster began to tarnish as his tendency to prey on young men was coming to light. Dozens of victims came forward and some cases are still in court today.

What the cardinal knew about them came up in a previously unpublished 2008 deposition. In it, lawyer Jeff Anderson grills the cardinal saying:

“It was the Review Board that recommended he be removed from ministry October 15th, was it not?”

Cardinal George: ‘They gave me that advice, yes. I wish that I had followed it with all my heart.”

Lawyer: “You didn’t follow it?”

Cardinal George: “I didn’t because I thought that they had not finished the case’s investigation. They hadn’t considered all the evidence.”

No conclusion, thought the cardinal. So, he did nothing to defrock the sexually active priest in the spotlight over and over again.

Father Norbert J. Mayday went to prison for 20 years for crimes of sexual abuse that date as far back as the 1970s. In a 2002 letter from the Cardinal, he offers hope that Fr. Mayday might see his sentenced reduced, or even get early parole. This, after Mayday was already behind bars.

The documents also show Father Joseph Bennett, an offender of enormous proportions, was kept in ministry almost four years after accusations about him surfaced.

In the legal proceeding Cardinal George said he “hoped accusers were wrong.”

They were not.

Cardinal George: “You always hope that the allegation is not quite what the accuser says it is.”

Lawyer: “Well, hope is one thing but facts are another and the facts are that there have been multiple allegations against this priest and instead of telling this writer (parishioner) this, you told him that you’re hoping he’s (Fr. Bennett) innocent, right?”

Cardinal George: “I would hope that he would be innocent. I don’t believe it, but who would not, that’s what  I said.”


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