Deposition Probes Pervasive Abuse By Local Priests

Auxiliary Bishop Raymond Goedert Talked To Attorneys About More Than A Dozen Cases

CBS News/July 21, 2009

Attorneys on Tuesday released a 180-page deposition taken from the top aide to Francis Cardinal George, as they settle six cases alleging sexual abuse by priests.

The deposition was taken from now-retired Auxiliary Bishop Raymond Goedert, who was the second-ranked official in the Chicago Archdiocese under both Francis Cardinal George and the late Joseph Cardinal Bernardin, from 1987 until 2003. However, Goedert testified about cases that predated Cardinal George's installation in Chicago.

As part of their settlement with the Archdiocese, victims of priest abuse who filed suit against the church demanded the deposition be released.

Attorney Jeff Anderson has represented many victims of priest abuse and in November of 2007, he deposed Goedert.

In the deposition, Goedert admits for years the Archdiocese reassigned priests accused of sexual abuse without warning their new parishes.

"In the beginning, we did not notify the parishioners. I believe that we began to notify the parishioners only at the time when we removed a priest from the parish," Goedert said.

Anderson says the consequences were devastating, with these priests - among others - abusing repeatedly.

"They not only kept it secret among themselves, that allowed them to move their priests where they would continue to offend, re-offend, get caught and get moved again," Anderson said.

While only four priests - two dead and two still alive - are named in the settlements announced Tuesday, more than a dozen priests accused of abuse are mentioned in the deposition.

The Archdiocese of Chicago released a statement Tuesday afternoon regarding the deposition that said, in part, "It is important to note that during the years contained in Bishop Goedert's deposition (1970 - 1986) Cardinal Francis George was not Archbishop of Chicago and was not living in the United States."

At the core of the deposition is a sexual abuse scandal that hit the Chicago Archdiocese in the early 1990s, and forced Bernardin to call a special commission to investigate.

The Rev. Robert E. Mayer, the pastor at St. Odilo's parish in west suburban Berwyn, quietly left in July 1991 after allegations of sexual misconduct with a 20-year-old man, according to published reports. He had already been named in a lawsuit by a woman claiming he had made advances against her young son at a previous parish assignment, and was finally indicted in1992 on allegations that he molested a 14-year-old girl.

Lawsuits later charged that the Archdiocese had ignored warnings about Mayer and just moved him from parish to parish. In the deposition, attorneys probe Goedert on whether the clergy "looked after their own" by transferring Mayer and covering up other abuse cases.

Goedert conceded church officials did not report abuse to law enforcement. Anderson asked whether the Archdiocese had a policy to keep the abuse secret.

"I guess I wouldn't use the word secret. If you're using the word confidential, I would answer yes," Geodert said in the deposition.

"They and Bishop Goedert, as the number two guy under both Cardinal Bernardin and Cardinal George went to great lengths of protect themselves and their reputation, at the peril of the children," Anderson said.

The lawsuits settled Tuesday were brought against deceased priests Kenneth Ruge and Robert Becker, and the still-living Norbert Maday and Russell Romano. Maday has since been defrocked, according to the law firm.

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