BY ANDREW HERRMANN AND CHRIS FUSCO Staff Reporters
Cardinal Francis George acknowledged Tuesday that he and other Archdiocese of Chicago officials had worked to reduce the prison sentence of sex-abusing priest Norbert Maday, who is believed to have molested children dozens of times.
In a letter dated March 6, 2000, to Maday — formerly an associate pastor at a Chicago Ridge parish who was sentenced in 1994 for molesting two boys — George writes, “Hopefully, some good souls will see that the six years of incarceration you have already endured are enough to satisfy the state and any sense of justice. . . . It would be a great fulfillment of the millennium spirit to see your captive heart set free.”
In a memo to George from the archdiocese’s vicar of priests in February 2000, George is urged to contact a Wisconsin bishop “regarding Norb” in support of Maday’s attorney’s efforts to have Maday’s sentence commuted, allowing him to return to the Chicago area.
George’s letter and other archdiocese correspondence with Maday and legal officials in Wisconsin, where Maday is incarcerated, were included in a deposition George gave in January.
The deposition was posted on the archdiocese Web site Tuesday as part of a $12.6 million settlement with 16 abuse victims of Maday and 10 other priests.
George told reporters that when he became archbishop of Chicago in 1997, “I was told [Maday’s] sentence was disproportionately long” and that “my first correspondence [with Maday] was one of sympathy for anyone in jail.”
The view of Maday changed after “more accusations came forward” and that Maday “was unable to admit what he has done,” George said.
George said he has since urged Wisconsin to keep Maday committed. “He remains in denial,” George said.
But the archdiocese had gone to remarkable lengths for Maday, giving him an increase in his monthly stipend from $200 to $300, thanking then-Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson for allowing the body of Maday’s deceased mother to be brought to Maday’s prison and offering to care for Maday should he be released.
Under restrictions that included keeping Maday away from children and living in a monitored residence, “We would be pleased to receive Norbert Maday into the Archdiocese of Chicago system” which would “relieve the state of Wisconsin from the financial burden of caring for Maday,” the Rev. Daniel Coughlin, archdiocesan co-vicar for priests, wrote the Wisconsin parole commission in May 1999.
In the deposition, George told victims attorney Jeffrey R. Anderson of Anderson & Associates of St. Paul, Minn., that he wrote letters of support to Maday before he examined the archdiocese file on Maday, based on others’ characterizations of Maday’s case.
In April 2007, George wrote the chair of the Wisconsin Parole Commission, saying “the situation has changed” and that the archdiocese “is not capable of receiving him back into our system.” George said Tuesday he has requested of Rome that Maday “be dismissed from the Catholic priesthood,” telling reporters, “I began to realize that this man had seriously abused many, many innocent children.”
In an interview, Anderson, who has represented eight of Maday’s victims, said, “I’ve been doing this for 25 years and there are few things that shock me.” Uncovering the archdiocese correspondence “really shocked me,” he said.
In the deposition, taken over eight hours, George also admitted to mistakes in the handling of sex abuse allegations against the Rev. Daniel McCormack and the Rev. Joseph Bennett.
McCormack pleaded guilty last year to sexually abusing five boys. The records released Tuesday show as many as 23 abuse allegations against him have surfaced. One of McCormack’s victims allegedly was abused after George had received an archdiocesan review board recommendation to remove him from St. Agatha Parish.
As for Bennett, George initially agreed with the review board’s Oct. 15, 2005, recommendation “that Fr. Bennett be immediately withdrawn from ministry” but then changed his mind.
“I realize this creates a rather awkward situation, but I believe I need to reflect on this matter further,” George wrote in a Nov. 7, 2005, letter to the head of the archdiocese’s professional-responsibility office. Bennett eventually was removed in February 2006.
The $12.675 million settlement will be funded through borrowing backed by insurance and the sale of what George called “undeveloped assets,” such as land holdings.