Group questions cardinal's appointment

November 19, 2010 4:34:06 PM PST
Cardinal Francis George of Chicago is at the Vatican where it has been announced that the pope will soon issue a new set of guidelines on how to handle priest sex offenders.

The announcement comes as a victims' group questions an appointment made by Cardinal George before he left.

Even as Cardinal George and Roman Catholic church leaders gathered with the pope Friday to sort through the latest clergy sex abuse issues, there is trouble on the home front -- nagging questions about the way a Chicago bishop handled a priest sex abuser and whether that bishop has just been rewarded by Cardinal George with a prominent new position.

One hundred and fifty of the world's cardinals, known as the 'princes of the church,' greeted Pope Benedict Friday at the Vatican. The group was summoned by the pope for a summit on clerical sex abuse, a day ahead of their scheduled ceremony to elevate 24 new cardinals.

"The question of the abuse of minors when you hear about it today, it is always in reference to things that happened 10, 20, 30, 40 even 50 years ago. I think that the Catholic Church in the United States has very, very decisively dealt with this problem. Those priests involved in the abuse are no longer in ministry, we have all kinds of programs now for the protection of young people," said Archbishop Donald Wuerl, cardinal-designate.

One question being raised is whether the conduct of Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tuscon, Arizona, is being protected. For the past year, Kicanas has been the second in command of the U.S. bishop's conference to Chicago's Cardinal George. It was expected this week that Kicanas would succeed Cardinal George as is tradition and be elected president.

Kicanas, a former Chicago bishop, was widely criticized for how he handled the case of Chicago pedophile priest Daniel McCormack who is not in prison. An email campaign pointed to Kicanas' role as rector of the Mundelein seminary where McCormack was a student and ordained.

Despite Bishop Kicanas' election defeat, Cardinal George has now appointed him as head of the powerful Catholic Relief Services, the church's international humanitarian agency.

Some critics say the cardinal gave his friend a consolation prize. But a statement from Cardinal George at the Vatican says, "Bishop Kicanas' background, experiences, position as a strong voice for CRS. He also got the second most votes (111), so it would appear that he has support from his fellow bishops."

In a statement released by the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) founder Barbara Blaine said, "Kicanas helped a sexually troubled seminarian become a priest, thereby giving him access to boys whom he molested. Giving any promotion, honor or position to Kicanas is essentially rewarding recklessness."


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