February 21, 2006

No end to debate on abuse archives

Chicago Tribune

By Ofelia Casillas and Manya A. Brachear
Tribune staff reporters
Published February 21, 2006

Whether the Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago should open its archives and allow child welfare officials to investigate all past abuse allegations against priests reflects a wider debate over the law that governs reports and investigations of abuse.

Child safety advocates say the statute is quite clear: The archdiocese is obligated to share the information, and the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services is liable to investigate it.

But advocates for priests say the requirement singles out Catholic clergy and exposes them to unnecessary public scrutiny, while former state investigators and watchdogs say such a project would strain an already taxed system that cannot handle its current caseload.

"They've got their work cut out for them," said Cook County Public Guardian Robert Harris. "I just hope DCFS can handle it. ... If it's an inordinate amount of past and present cases they have to investigate, I can't help but think they are going to pull people from active cases."

Posted by kshaw at February 21, 2006 07:40 AM