The Controversy Unfolds: Twice-Accused Priest Back in Action, Sparks Outrage and Criticism

by | Mar 29, 2024 | Catholic Church

Daniel McCarthy Horowitz Law

In a surprising twist, Fr. Daniel McCarthy, a twice-accused Chicago priest, is now back on the job after facing two accusations of sexual assault. That’s worrisome, of course, but sadly not terribly shocking. But what is shocking is that the cleric apparently spoke at length with a reporter regarding the Archdiocese’s mismanagement. Of course, that rarely happens. The cleric gave a relatively detailed description of the three-year saga of the church ‘investigation’ into the allegations against him to a reporter. The result: a news report that is telling, alarming, gripping, and disgusting all at once. Even the headline is startling: 

“Archdiocese of Chicago sat on or lost child sexual abuse accusation, didn’t question priest about allegation specifics, accused priest says.”

The sub-heading of that article reads, “Fr. Daniel McCarthy said he was never directly questioned about the details of child sexual abuse allegations leveled against him, and one of the allegations wasn’t investigated for about a year.”

Let’s assume for the moment that this new article is totally accurate. If so, we at Horowitz Law honestly can’t decide which of these actions—and inactions—is the worst. But first, in a nutshell, here is the essence of the story.

The Investigation: A Three-Year Ordeal

Fr. McCarthy offered a comprehensive account of his harrowing journey through the church’s investigative process over the past three years, detailing a series of missteps and oversights to a journalist. His narrative paints a grim picture of indifference and inefficiency, challenging the very pillars of justice the church claims to uphold.

Fr. McCarthy said that during an Archdiocese investigation of child sexual abuse allegations leveled against him, he was never directly questioned about the specifics of the accusations. And despite its child safety policy to remove a priest from his parish until it completes an investigation, the Archdiocese knew about an abuse accusation against McCarthy for around a year before it removed him from Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity Parish or told the public about the allegations.

Let that sink in. Within the last few years, not in the 1980s, 1990s, or even the 2000s, but recently, the archdiocese knew about an abuse accusation against Fr. McCarthy for around a year before removing him. Despite their own policies dictating the immediate removal of a priest facing such serious charges, the archdiocese’s apparent delay in addressing the accusations leveled against Fr. McCarthy is a scandal all in itself.

A Closer Look at the Alleged Inaction

Fr. McCarthy’s own words highlight a review process fraught with superficial queries and a lack of direct questioning about the accusations against him. He described the questions posed by the church abuse panel as easy and unrelated to the specifics of his purported offenses.

Now, let’s look more closely at this story. Bear with us as we quote just a few disturbing lines from this detailed and compelling news article:

      1. Fr. McCarthy said he “never faced direct, specific questioning from anybody, aside from broad questions unrelated to allegation specifics he fielded from the Review Board shortly before they took their vote.”
      2. The accused priest said a church abuse panel asked “easy questions at me,” none about the specifics of his alleged offense, and “it sounded to me (the accused said) like they. . had already figured out that this was silliness.”
      3. Fr. McCarthy doesn’t remember precisely what questions he was asked, but remembers them as simple and basic, without asking about details.
      4. Even if all of the details of the allegations don’t line up, it’s difficult to discern why the Archdiocese wouldn’t have taken its opportunities to ask McCarthy specific questions about them.
      5. A source familiar with the Archdiocese’s investigative process said that people present at the orphanage (where the abuse reportedly occurred) at the same time as the Archdiocese questioned McCarthy about their impressions of the priest and their experiences with him. But they weren’t questioned about whether specific details regarding the investigation could have been accurate given the operation of the orphanage.

And then, perhaps the accused cleric’s two most damning claims:

      1. If Fr. McCarthy’s recollection is accurate, the Archdiocese was aware of an allegation of child sexual abuse against him for about a year but left him in his post, contradicting their policy to protect children in case of a priest’s guilt.
      2. In a 2021 letter to parishioners, (Cardinal) Cupich writes that ‘late last year the Archdiocese received allegations of child sexual abuse against Father McCarthy,’ omitting the fact, if the priest’s recollection is correct, that the Archdiocese sat on — or lost — the first McCarthy allegation for a year.”

Sources Confirm Investigation Flaws

Now, a bit about the overall archdiocesan process for ‘investigating’ abuse reports:

      • A source familiar with the review board process described the tenure of a Director of the Archdiocesan Office of Child Abuse as ‘marked by disorganization and incompetence.’
      • Alarmingly, sources familiar with the Archdiocese’s investigative process had different things to say about the Review Board’s role in investigations. Some sources said the Review Board looks at the Director of the Office’s dossier and takes a vote. However, a former Review Board member said the group is deeply involved in the investigative process.

The Archdiocesan Response

Then, there’s the whole issue of how archdiocesan officials responded – or refused to – during and after the story was finalized.

      • The Archdiocese’s website provides an outline of its investigative process, but it declined to provide further details.
      • The Archdiocese will not provide a fleshed-out evidentiary standard, investigative or deliberative process, publicly accessible investigative documents, or described reasoning for decisions.
      • The Archdiocese did not respond to multiple outreach attempts to get comment on McCarthy’s claims.

Now, it bears mentioning that some or much of this article is based on the account given by a twice-accused, once-suspended priest. Admittedly, he could be a more objective and reliable narrator. And the news outlet, Noir, isn’t CNN, the Associated Press, the New York Times, or a widely known source. Still, like most journalists, this reporter does cite multiple sources. (“A source familiar with the Archdiocese investigative process confirmed McCarthy’s recollection of the described fiasco” and “sources familiar with the Archdiocese’s investigative process confirmed parts of (McCarthy’s) recollection.)

And if even half of the allegations made in this story are true, the church’s process for dealing with abuse reports – in the nation’s third-largest archdiocese – seems pretty awful. And if that process ISN’T so awful, why doesn’t Cardinal Blasé Cupich or someone on his undoubtedly large staff respond to questions from this reporter? Or publish his own version of these troubling events?

The Silence of Leadership: Cardinal Cupich Under Fire

Cupich’s silence speaks volumes. In fact, it nearly screams: “They are pure bunk. All those promises we make, repeatedly, that we’ve learned and reformed and are no longer secretive but instead open and honest, are empty promises.”

Cardinal Cupich’s absence of a response to the growing controversies not only fuels the fire but also undermines the Archdiocese’s perceived dedication to reform and transparency in handling cases of abuse. This silence is emblematic of a broader issue within the church’s hierarchy.

Cupich doesn’t just mishandle cases of living priests. He won’t identify a credibly accused deceased priest as credibly accused despite paying one of his victims a hefty settlement. He also refuses to hold religious orders responsible for abuse by their members in his archdiocese and refuses to tell his flock about them.

In all fairness, Cupich is not the worst Catholic official in the US. But given his position and his close ties to Pope Francis, Catholics and indeed all of us should have higher expectations about how Cupich acts regarding child sex crimes and cover-ups. As this story unfolds, it serves as a somber reminder of the challenges that lie ahead in restoring trust and integrity within one of the world’s most venerable institutions. Amidst the echoes of a twice-accused priest, now in a parish and openly blasting his archbishop, the call for transparency, accountability, and reform has never been louder.

Here is a glimpse into other cases involving accused abusers being put back on the job, even in recent years, in Louisville, KY; Charleston, SC; Des Moines, IA; Erie, PA; Trenton, NJ; Buffalo, NY; Boston, MA; Allentown PA; and elsewhere.

Horowitz Law is a law firm representing victims and survivors of sexual abuse by religious authority figures and other clergy. If you need a lawyer because a member of a religious organization sexually abused you, contact us today at 888-283-9922 or [email protected] to discuss your options today. Our lawyers have decades of experience representing survivors of clergy sexual abuse nationwide. We can help.