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$2.7M settlement in priest abuse case

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$2.7M settlement in priest abuse case

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Mark A. Brown

Two brothers who allege they were victims of sexual abuse by a former Catholic priest have settled their lawsuit for $2.7 million.

The brothers — who are identified as John Doe A and John Doe B in the lawsuit — sued the Archdiocese of Chicago in 2014, alleging it allowed Daniel McCormack to be ordained as a priest and placed him in a church to teach and mentor children despite having knowledge of prior sexual misconduct allegations against him.

Cardinal Francis George appointed McCormack to serve as pastor of St. Agatha’s Catholic Church and Our Lady of the Westside School in 2000 on the city’s West Side, a post in which McCormack served until 2005.

He was placed in the position despite the archdiocese’s knowledge that McCormack faced prior allegations of sexual abuse against both fellow seminarians and young children in previous places he served in the 1980s and 1990s, according to the Does’ lawsuit.

McCormack’s alleged abuse of the Doe brothers began near the end of a summer camp program they attended at the church and school in 2004 and went into the 2004-2005 school year, said Mark A. Brown, a partner at Lane & Lane LLC who represented the plaintiffs. They did not attend the school but were attending a daily after-school program at the time, he said.

And like many victims of sexual abuse, Brown said, the brothers suffered a personality change after the alleged abuse occurred.

“They started using drugs and alcohol to dull themselves,” he said. “They lost trust in adults and authority figures in the church … and then one of them had a couple of brief stints getting mental health help in a mental health facility.”

The brothers stayed silent about the alleged abuse and even denied its occurrence until a family member saw news that McCormack was arrested on sexual abuse charges and began talking to them about it, Brown said.

“Once he was arrested, they sort of felt like ‘OK, I’m not imagining it, I didn’t do anything wrong,’” he said. “It was incredibly difficult to do so and say ‘Yes, this happened to me’ and finally talk about it, but it wasn’t until they learned that this was happening that they were able to do that.”

George was initially named as a defendant in the lawsuit but was removed after his death in 2015.

The parties engaged in litigation, and the defendants took depositions on the case but never filed an answer to the Does’ lawsuit. Adam T. Rick, an associate at Burke, Warren, MacKay & Serritella P.C. represented the defendants.

In a written statement, the archdiocese said it does not comment on settlements out of respect for parties involved, but noted McCormack is no longer a priest.

“He was removed from public ministry in February of 2006 and laicized (removed from the priesthood) in November 2007,” it said in the statement. “No priest with even one substantiated allegation of sexual abuse of a minor serves in ministry in the Archdiocese of Chicago today.”

The parties mediated the case for a full day in October before former Cook County judge Dennis J. Burke of ADR Systems of America LLC. They did not reach an agreement at that time but settled the case after Burke continued to work with them for several weeks following the mediation, Brown said.

Cook County Circuit Judge Claire Elizabeth McWilliams entered an order dismissing the case on Jan. 3 after the settlement was reached. Doe A, the older brother, will receive $1.55 million and the younger Doe B will receive $1.15 million.

Despite resolving the lawsuit, Brown said, the brothers — now 28 and 26 — still deal with effects of what happened to them.

“People talk about closure, and sometimes I think that’s a little simplistic,” he said. “I think there’s an element of that in every case … but there are ongoing thoughts and flashbacks and dreams they have about this. Just because you settle a lawsuit doesn’t mean everything becomes rosy because you’re able to have some money to help you in the future.”

But they have plans to return to and complete school, which Brown said is certainly a positive to come from the settlement.

“I think it’s going to provide them with a positive path that I hope — and they hope — they can stay on,” he said.

The archdiocese’s written statement also included a call for unknown victims to share their stories.

“The archdiocese encourages anyone who has been sexually abused by a priest, deacon, religious, lay employee or volunteer, to come forward,” it said in the statement. “Complete information about reporting sexual abuse can be found on the archdiocesan website under Protecting Children at archchicago.org or by calling the Office for Child Abuse Investigations and Review, (312) 534-5205 or 1-800-994-6200 or the Office of Assistance Ministry, 312-534-8267 or toll-free at 866-517-4528.”

The case is John Doe A, et al. v. The Archdiocese of Chicago,et al., 14 L 10371.

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