PINOY Newsmagazine/Philippine News
By Ted Regencia
CHICAGO — In an effort to stem an ongoing abuse controversy, the Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago released on March 21 the result of an investigation, which named 55 diocesan priests who are facing “substantiated allegations” of abuse.
One of them is now deceased Filipino priest Fr. Albert Tanghal.
The names of the priests are listed in the archdiocese’s website http://www.archidiocese-chgo.org. Details of the allegations, which date as far back as 1950, were not made public.
At the Tuesday press conference, Francis Cardinal George endured sharp questions by the media, and offered his apology, “for the tragedy of allowing children to be in the presence of a priest against whom a current accusation of sexual abuse had been made.” “I am most truly sorry,” the cardinal said on TV.
Fr. Tanghal, who was ordained in 1991, was last known to have served St. John Vianney Parish, located in the northwest Chicago suburb of Northlake, and which has a significant number of Filipino churchgoers.
In December of 2003, while on vacation in the Philippines, Fr. Tanghal, then 50, was killed by suspected robbers, who reportedly ransacked his house in Quezon City. According to news reports, the priest had numerous stab wounds in his chest and other parts of the body.
It was not clear when the allegation against Fr. Tanghal first surfaced. But based on the statement issued by the archdiocese, he was able to respond to the charge. Deceased priests “who did not have the opportunity to respond to an allegation before they died” were not included on the list.
“An allegation is deemed to be substantiated if there is reasonable cause to believe that abuse occurred,” the report said. However, it clarified that the list is “not a legal judgment” of the case.
Apart from the deceased priests who are on the list, the other priests have either resigned or have been removed from ministry.
The abuse controversy in the Chicago Archdiocese only resurfaced last January 2006, when one of its members, Rev. Daniel McCormack was arrested and charged of sexual misconduct against minors studying at a Catholic school.
Critics have accused the Chicago Cardinal of downplaying the series of decades-old allegations against McCormack, and failing to investigate and report the accusations to proper authorities. They have also called for his resignation.
Meanwhile, Defenbaugh and Associates, the outside auditors hired by Cardinal George to conduct the investigation, concluded that the archdiocese had substandard record-keeping procedures of documents related to abuse cases, thus allowing accused priests of carrying alleged abuses.
In the specific case of McCormack, the auditors said archdiocese employees were in violation of the Illinois Abused and Neglected Child Reporting Act, when they failed to investigate or report the case. Most significantly, there was no documentation of the more recent accusations against him.