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Victims' rights group denounces candidate to lead US Catholic bishops

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The following is taken from a message emailed on November 16 by BishopAccountability.org - an advocacy group that monitors Catholic clergy and their response to victims of sexual and clerical abuse. Signed by Anne Barrett-Doyle, vice-president of the group, the letter calls on recipients to make their voices heard as the US Conference of Catholic Bishops meets in Baltimore MD. Among the issues facing the prelates at their annual meeting is the election of a new president of the group. Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson AZ is currently the vice-president of the USCCB and is favored to take to role of president if tradition holds true. The election is scheduled for November 16.  Here follows an excerpt from Monitor, distributed by BishopAccountability,org

Today, American bishops will elect a new president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. The widely predicted winner, Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, is not worthy to hold the post, and this Monitor addresses why.


Since 2006 – and as recently as last Friday -- Bishop Kicanas has failed to account honestly for his role in one of the most catastrophic abuse cases in recent years.

In 1992, when Kicanas was head of the Chicago archdiocese's Mundelein Seminary, seminary officials were made aware of three allegations of sexual misconduct by priest candidate Daniel McCormack. Two incidents involved adults, and one was an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor.

Kicanas and his staff could have reported McCormack to the police and, at the very least, blocked his ordination, which didn't occur until two years later. But they didn't.

The seminary's enabling of McCormack was revealed in 2006, in an audit forced on the archdiocese by its disastrous handling of the priest. McCormack today is an admitted and convicted serial pedophile with 23 reported child victims, some as young as eight. Kicanas has refused to concede any mistakes or wrong-doing in his case.

"His activity was part of the developmental process"

"It would have been grossly unfair not to have ordained him," Kicanas told the Chicago Sun-Times in 2007.

"There was a sense that his activity was part of the developmental process ... I was more concerned about his drinking," he said in the same interview.

Kicanas's evasive statements last week

Now Kicanas has gone public with a new self-defense. In meticulously worded written responses published Friday in the National Catholic Register, he states no less than seven times that he did not receive any allegations against McCormack during McCormack's years at Mundelein.

Strangely, Kicanas does not mention the Defenbaugh audit or confront its damaging revelations. Nor does he discuss statements made by Cardinal George in a 2008 deposition that also contradict his account. Instead of addressing the important evidence provided by a cardinal and an outside expert retained by the Archdiocese of Chicago, Kicanas builds his case by refuting two news accounts and the work of a couple bloggers.

It seems to us that Kicanas employs “mental reservation” in this statement – the well-documented practice by bishops of saying statements that while technically or apparently true are intended to mislead.

Is Kicanas trying to conceal that an alleged victim was a child?

The most disturbing instance of Kicanas’s evasiveness occurs in the following paragraph from his statement last week:

“While McCormack was at Mundelein, a student commented to his counselor that when they were in Mexico studying Spanish, McCormick had been in a bar where they had been drinking and that as they were leaving the bar, McCormack had in public patted a person on the behind over clothing. When the counselor reported that to us, McCormack was called in and was asked to give an explanation. His explanation was exactly as was reported to the counselor by the other seminarian. Neither account indicated any sexual act or intention.”

Now read this response by Cardinal George to a question by attorney Jeffrey Anderson during George’s deposition in January 2008 (bold-face added by us):

Q. ... [T]here had been multiple allegations of sexual misconduct by McCormack in seminary, correct?

A. I believe there were only two when he was a college seminarian and then the immediate incidents of misconduct when he was in Mexico which was the only time there was any indication about a minor. The others were sexual misconduct with his peers in the seminary, I believe.

It seems likely that George and Kicanas are referring to the same incidents in Mexico - that the “minor” cited by George is the “person” cited by Kicanas.

In other words, it seems that Kicanas is spinning an incident of alleged sexual abuse not only to make it seem harmless but to disguise the fact that the alleged victim was a child.

If Kicanas lied last week, he should resign

If this is true -- if Kicanas as recently as last week was lying publicly about a child sex abuse allegation -- then we contend that he must resign not only from the USCCB but as Tucson bishop.

If instead Kicanas is elevated by his peers today, the bishops will be signaling to younger clergy that dismissing allegations and lying to the public about it are still career-building moves within the Church. And those who were raped and molested will be reminded that the bishops' promises of openness and "children first" are still not true.

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