CN Jan 23, 2014

When the court-ordered six-thousand page “document dump” related to the Chicago Archdiocese priest sex abuse scandal happened earlier this week, Sun-Times reporter Art Golab set about reading them. His share was well over 1,000 pages.

“From what I learned after reading all those documents, many of them very depressing, was that, yes, the Church presents itself as a moral authority,” Golab tells us. “But in all too many cases the Church is made up of human beings, who cannot necessarily always live up to those standards.”

It was difficult reading, he says, but for the first time, it laid out in black and white the deeply personal stories of the Church’s sex-abuse victims.

“There’s certainly a lot of outrage, especially among the people who were abused. A lot of anger. And what really makes it tough for a lot of people is that this is the Church that they put their faith in, literally. And they believed. And these priests were like their heroes.  They were authority figures who basically abused their position of authority – and therefore, people feel betrayed.”

But why now? How did these documents come to be in the public view? Both Golab and writer/blogger/activist Matt Farmer explained the process. It began, Golab says, with several attorneys in Minneapolis.

“There’s been a battle,” he says, “for at least seven years, for the church to release these documents. The plaintiffs had a choice. They could have probably squeezed more money out of the Archdiocese. But a lot of what these victims wanted was for these practices to become public. To find out who did what. It was the victims’ choice. They pressed for it.”

And as Farmer says, despite this loss in court, the Archdiocese did keep the records away from the public for years. “Two of the three cardinals who oversaw the abuse and litigation are dead. Fourteen of the thirty priests are dead. So they were successful in keeping this stuff out of the sunlight for quite a while.”

And what of the legacy of the widely-respeced Cardinal Joseph Bernardin?  Some might say he was just “overly optimistic about the priest’s possibilities for rehabilitation,” Golab explains. “Other people would say that he actively covered this up.  And the evidence showed that that is what happened. I think he did what he did for what he thought were for good reasons and for the good of the Church.”

Charters are back in the news again this week. Actually, they’re rarely far outside the news. Seven new ones were approved by CPS, but only three outright. The others were given a provisional approval. But ten others were rejected at this time.

Golab says  there just might not be enough money to continue the rapid expansion. “When the City closed fifty schools last year, they made a commitment not to close any more for five years,” he says. “So at this point, if they can’t close more schools, where are they gonna find the money to give to new charter schools? Because that’s how this whole process has worked. I think they’ve got to slow it down.”

The argument has been that Chicago needs more charters in overcrowded neighborhoods in parts of the Southwest and Northwest sides. But few of the charter schools proposed in this round would have served to seriously alleviate overcrowding.

Several of the schools approved yesterday are religiously affiliated, according to Farmer.

“One is affiliated with the Reverend Charles Jenkins, who has a mega-church, and has been one of the Mayor’s advisors since Day One. We’ve got another charter that’s affiliated with the Moody Bible Institute, that was approved. We’ve got additional charters that are affiliated with the Gulen Movement, sort of a quasi- political/religious movement out of Turkey whose founder is living as a recluse in the Poconos. How it came to be that those seven – rather than the ten that were not approved – came to get a pass, I don’t know. It was an opaque process.”

But Farmer doesn’t think the charters will make much headway in the far northwest corner of the city.

“The question that always comes to my mind when I hear about charter expansion and the need to provide choice in overcrowded neighborhoods: Take Sauganash, take Edgebrook, where the neighborhood schools are and have been overcrowded. The Mayor doesn’t dare come up there with the charter crowds and say – folks, we want to open these charters in your neighborhood – because he knows they’re not buying what the charter folks are selling.”


About Ken

Ken's the host of Chicago Newsroom. A former news director, reporter and radio program host, he's also a past Vice President of the Chicago Headline Club.
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