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Ex-priest, long tolerated in Chicago archdiocese, deemed too dangerous for parole September 23, 2009

A former priest who was allowed to keep his parish assignments in the Chicago archdiocese despite complaints of sexual abuse is too dangerous to be released on parole, according to Illinois prosecutors.

Daniel McCormack, who was convicted of child molestation in 2007 and later laicized, will be eligible for parole on Friday. But prosecutors are invoking an Illinois state law that allows for keeping "sexually violent persons" in custody if they are judged dangerous to society. The district attorney will argue in a court petition that McCormack fits into that category, citing the fact that he molested a child even while he was under investigation for molesting another. His behavior was "brazen and brash," the district attorney said-- fitting the profile of a predator who is likely to continue molesting children.

The prosecutors' determination to keep McCormack under observation, in a tightly controlled treatment facility, contrasts dramatically with the actions of Chicago archdiocesan officials who were responsible for supervising him before his arrest. McCormack was allowed to continue in parish ministry despite complaints that he had molested children-- and despite the clear provision of the US bishops' "Dallas Charter" that a priest credibly accused of such misconduct should be suspended.

McCormack was admitted to the seminary in spite of prior complaints of sexual misconduct with young men. He was ordained to the priesthood in spite of new complaints, arising while he was at the seminary. (The seminary rector at that time, who championed McCormack's cause, is now the head of the Tucson diocese and vice-president of the US bishops' conference: Bishop Gerald Kicanas.) He was accused of molesting boys in 1999, in 2003, and in 2005-- the later two cases coming after the US bishops adopted the Dallas charter, with which the Chicago archdiocese is theoretically in compliance. In 2006 an archdiocesan review board recommended that he be removed from ministry. But Cardinal Francis George, the president of the US episcopal conference, chose to keep him at work until he was finally suspended after his arrest in 2006.

The Illinois attorney general and the local district attorney agree that McCormack's predatory behavior was so consistent and so brazen that he remains a threat to society. The fact that Church leaders were unable or unwilling to reach the same conclusion demonstrates that the American hierarchy has not yet dug up the roots of the sex-abuse scandal.