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Documents: Chicago archdiocese hid decades of child sex abuse

  • FILE - In this March 14, 2013, file photo, Chicago Cardinal Francis George speaks during an interview with the Associated Press in Rome, Italy. Internal documents showing how officials from the Archdiocese of Chicago handled allegations of child sexual abuse by priests are about to become public when victims’ attorneys post the documents to a website Tuesday morning, Jan. 21, 2014, after receiving them from the archdiocese last week as part of legal settlements. The documents are for 30 of 65 priests for whom the archdiocese says it has credible allegations. George says the disclosures are an attempt at transparency and to help victims heal. He’s also apologized to victims and area Catholics for the abuse.  (AP Photo/Michael Sohn, File)

    FILE - In this March 14, 2013, file photo, Chicago Cardinal Francis George speaks during an interview with the Associated Press in Rome, Italy. Internal documents showing how officials from the Archdiocese of Chicago handled allegations of child sexual abuse by priests are about to become public when victims’ attorneys post the documents to a website Tuesday morning, Jan. 21, 2014, after receiving them from the archdiocese last week as part of legal settlements. The documents are for 30 of 65 priests for whom the archdiocese says it has credible allegations. George says the disclosures are an attempt at transparency and to help victims heal. He’s also apologized to victims and area Catholics for the abuse. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn, File)

  • FILE - This April 17, 2002 file photo shows Chicago Cardinal Francis George listening to reporters' questions  before he left for Rome to meet with Vatican officials and other American cardinals about the child sex abuse scandals in the United States. Attorneys for sex abuse victims will post thousands of documents to a website Tuesday morning, Jan. 21, 2014, after receiving them from the Archdiocese of Chicago last week as part of legal settlements. Attorneys say the documents will show that the archdiocese concealed the abuse for decades. George says the disclosures are an attempt at transparency and to help victims heal. He’s also apologized to victims and area Catholics for the abuse. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green, File)

    FILE - This April 17, 2002 file photo shows Chicago Cardinal Francis George listening to reporters' questions before he left for Rome to meet with Vatican officials and other American cardinals about the child sex abuse scandals in the United States. Attorneys for sex abuse victims will post thousands of documents to a website Tuesday morning, Jan. 21, 2014, after receiving them from the Archdiocese of Chicago last week as part of legal settlements. Attorneys say the documents will show that the archdiocese concealed the abuse for decades. George says the disclosures are an attempt at transparency and to help victims heal. He’s also apologized to victims and area Catholics for the abuse. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green, File)

  • Attorney Jeff Anderson, left, places his hand on the files of Catholic priests credibly accused of sexually abusing minors in the Archdiocese of Chicago, prior to a news conference Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014, in Chicago. Joining Anderson is attorney Marc Pearlman.  (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

    Attorney Jeff Anderson, left, places his hand on the files of Catholic priests credibly accused of sexually abusing minors in the Archdiocese of Chicago, prior to a news conference Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014, in Chicago. Joining Anderson is attorney Marc Pearlman. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

  • This May 19, 1992 photo shows Chicago area priest Father Norbert Maday in Chicago.  The Archdiocese of Chicago spent decades covering up the sexual abuse of children according to documents released by Church officials last week and being made public on Tuesday, Jan 21, 2014, by victims’ attorneys as part of legal settlements. The internal documents show how officials from the archdiocese handled allegations of child sexual abuse by priests. Maday was imprisoned in Wisconsin after a 1994 conviction for molesting two boys.  (AP Photo/Sun-Times Media, Rich Hein)  MANDATORY CREDIT, MAGS OUT

    This May 19, 1992 photo shows Chicago area priest Father Norbert Maday in Chicago. The Archdiocese of Chicago spent decades covering up the sexual abuse of children according to documents released by Church officials last week and being made public on Tuesday, Jan 21, 2014, by victims’ attorneys as part of legal settlements. The internal documents show how officials from the archdiocese handled allegations of child sexual abuse by priests. Maday was imprisoned in Wisconsin after a 1994 conviction for molesting two boys. (AP Photo/Sun-Times Media, Rich Hein)  MANDATORY CREDIT, MAGS OUT

  • FILE - In this Oct. 4, 1996 file photo, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin sits during a Mass at St. Peter's Church in Chicago. The Archdiocese of Chicago spent decades covering up the sexual abuse of children according to documents released by Church officials last week and being made public on Tuesday, Jan 21, 2014 by victims’ attorneys. For decades, those at the highest levels of the nation’s third-largest archdiocese quietly moved priests from parish to parish and took steps to keep the abuse from becoming known outside church circles. The documents show that former Cardinals John Cody and Joseph Bernardin often approved the reassignments, though some eventually were removed from ministry. (AP Photo/Beth A. Keiser, File)

    FILE - In this Oct. 4, 1996 file photo, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin sits during a Mass at St. Peter's Church in Chicago. The Archdiocese of Chicago spent decades covering up the sexual abuse of children according to documents released by Church officials last week and being made public on Tuesday, Jan 21, 2014 by victims’ attorneys. For decades, those at the highest levels of the nation’s third-largest archdiocese quietly moved priests from parish to parish and took steps to keep the abuse from becoming known outside church circles. The documents show that former Cardinals John Cody and Joseph Bernardin often approved the reassignments, though some eventually were removed from ministry. (AP Photo/Beth A. Keiser, File)

  • This Aug. 27, 2007 photo provided by the Wisconsin Department of Corrections shows inmate Norbert Maday, a former Chicago area priest. The Archdiocese of Chicago spent decades covering up the sexual abuse of children according to documents released by Church officials last week and being made public on Tuesday, Jan 21, 2014, by victims’ attorneys as part of legal settlements. The internal documents show how officials from the archdiocese handled allegations of child sexual abuse by priests. Maday was imprisoned in Wisconsin after a 1994 conviction for molesting two boys. (AP Photo/Wisconsin Department of Corrections)

    This Aug. 27, 2007 photo provided by the Wisconsin Department of Corrections shows inmate Norbert Maday, a former Chicago area priest. The Archdiocese of Chicago spent decades covering up the sexual abuse of children according to documents released by Church officials last week and being made public on Tuesday, Jan 21, 2014, by victims’ attorneys as part of legal settlements. The internal documents show how officials from the archdiocese handled allegations of child sexual abuse by priests. Maday was imprisoned in Wisconsin after a 1994 conviction for molesting two boys. (AP Photo/Wisconsin Department of Corrections)

  • FILE - In this Aug. 30, 1996 file photo, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, 68, the senior Roman Catholic prelate in the United States and leader of Chicago's 2.3 million Catholics speaks at a news conference in Chicago.  The Archdiocese of Chicago spent decades covering up the sexual abuse of children according to documents released by Church officials last week and being made public on Tuesday, Jan 21, 2014 by victims’ attorneys. For decades, those at the highest levels of the nation’s third-largest archdiocese quietly moved priests from parish to parish and took steps to keep the abuse from becoming known outside church circles. The documents  show that former Cardinals John Cody and Joseph Bernardin often approved the reassignments, though some eventually were removed from ministry. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green, File)

    FILE - In this Aug. 30, 1996 file photo, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, 68, the senior Roman Catholic prelate in the United States and leader of Chicago's 2.3 million Catholics speaks at a news conference in Chicago. The Archdiocese of Chicago spent decades covering up the sexual abuse of children according to documents released by Church officials last week and being made public on Tuesday, Jan 21, 2014 by victims’ attorneys. For decades, those at the highest levels of the nation’s third-largest archdiocese quietly moved priests from parish to parish and took steps to keep the abuse from becoming known outside church circles. The documents show that former Cardinals John Cody and Joseph Bernardin often approved the reassignments, though some eventually were removed from ministry. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green, File)

  • FILE - In this March 14, 2013, file photo, Chicago Cardinal Francis George speaks during an interview with the Associated Press in Rome, Italy. The Archdiocese of Chicago spent decades covering up the sexual abuse of children according to documents released by Church officials last week and being made public on Tuesday, Jan 21, 2014, by victims’ attorneys. George, who has led the archdiocese since 1997, released a letter to parishioners on Jan. 12 in which he apologized for the abuse and said releasing the records "raises transparency to a new level." He also stressed that much of the abuse occurred decades ago, before he became archbishop. He said all of the incidents eventually were reported to civil authorities and resulted in settlements with victims. But victims’ lawyers have stressed that many of the allegations, if not the actual abuse, surfaced after George assumed control of the archdiocese, and some of the documents relate to how the church handled the cases much more recently. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn, File)

    FILE - In this March 14, 2013, file photo, Chicago Cardinal Francis George speaks during an interview with the Associated Press in Rome, Italy. The Archdiocese of Chicago spent decades covering up the sexual abuse of children according to documents released by Church officials last week and being made public on Tuesday, Jan 21, 2014, by victims’ attorneys. George, who has led the archdiocese since 1997, released a letter to parishioners on Jan. 12 in which he apologized for the abuse and said releasing the records "raises transparency to a new level." He also stressed that much of the abuse occurred decades ago, before he became archbishop. He said all of the incidents eventually were reported to civil authorities and resulted in settlements with victims. But victims’ lawyers have stressed that many of the allegations, if not the actual abuse, surfaced after George assumed control of the archdiocese, and some of the documents relate to how the church handled the cases much more recently. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn, File)

  • FILE - In this March 14, 2013, file photo, Chicago Cardinal Francis George speaks during an interview with the Associated Press in Rome, Italy. The Archdiocese of Chicago spent decades covering up the sexual abuse of children according to documents released by Church officials last week and being made public on Tuesday, Jan 21, 2014, by victims’ attorneys. George, who has led the archdiocese since 1997, released a letter to parishioners on Jan. 12 in which he apologized for the abuse and said releasing the records "raises transparency to a new level." He also stressed that much of the abuse occurred decades ago, before he became archbishop. He said all of the incidents eventually were reported to civil authorities and resulted in settlements with victims. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn, File)

    FILE - In this March 14, 2013, file photo, Chicago Cardinal Francis George speaks during an interview with the Associated Press in Rome, Italy. The Archdiocese of Chicago spent decades covering up the sexual abuse of children according to documents released by Church officials last week and being made public on Tuesday, Jan 21, 2014, by victims’ attorneys. George, who has led the archdiocese since 1997, released a letter to parishioners on Jan. 12 in which he apologized for the abuse and said releasing the records "raises transparency to a new level." He also stressed that much of the abuse occurred decades ago, before he became archbishop. He said all of the incidents eventually were reported to civil authorities and resulted in settlements with victims. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn, File)

  • This Oct. 3, 2002 photo shows former priest William Cloutier in Skokie, Ill. In 1979, Cloutier, a priest at St. Damian’s in Oak Forest, Ill., was accused of raping a 13-year-old boy and threatening him a gunpoint to keep quiet. The Archdiocese of Chicago assured the boy’s parents that although the cleric avoided prosecution, he would receive treatment and have no further contact with minors. But Cloutier was returned to ministry a year later and didn’t resign until 1993, two years after the boy’s parents filed a lawsuit. The Archdiocese of Chicago spent decades covering up the sexual abuse of children according to documents released by Church officials last week and being made public on Tuesday, Jan 21, 2014 by victims’ attorneys.  (AP Photo/Sun-Times Media, Keith Hale)  MANDATORY CREDIT, MAGS OUT

    This Oct. 3, 2002 photo shows former priest William Cloutier in Skokie, Ill. In 1979, Cloutier, a priest at St. Damian’s in Oak Forest, Ill., was accused of raping a 13-year-old boy and threatening him a gunpoint to keep quiet. The Archdiocese of Chicago assured the boy’s parents that although the cleric avoided prosecution, he would receive treatment and have no further contact with minors. But Cloutier was returned to ministry a year later and didn’t resign until 1993, two years after the boy’s parents filed a lawsuit. The Archdiocese of Chicago spent decades covering up the sexual abuse of children according to documents released by Church officials last week and being made public on Tuesday, Jan 21, 2014 by victims’ attorneys. (AP Photo/Sun-Times Media, Keith Hale) MANDATORY CREDIT, MAGS OUT

  • Attorney Jeff Anderson, left, places his hand on the files of Catholic priests credibly accused of sexually abusing minors in the Archdiocese of Chicago, prior to a news conference Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014, in Chicago. Joining Anderson is attorney Marc Pearlman.  (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

    Attorney Jeff Anderson, left, places his hand on the files of Catholic priests credibly accused of sexually abusing minors in the Archdiocese of Chicago, prior to a news conference Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014, in Chicago. Joining Anderson is attorney Marc Pearlman. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

  • FILE - In this March 14, 2013, file photo, Chicago Cardinal Francis George speaks during an interview with the Associated Press in Rome, Italy. The Archdiocese of Chicago spent decades covering up the sexual abuse of children according to documents released by Church officials last week and being made public on Tuesday, Jan 21, 2014, by victims’ attorneys. George, who has led the archdiocese since 1997, released a letter to parishioners on Jan. 12 in which he apologized for the abuse and said releasing the records "raises transparency to a new level." He also stressed that much of the abuse occurred decades ago, before he became archbishop. He said all of the incidents eventually were reported to civil authorities and resulted in settlements with victims. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn, File)

    FILE - In this March 14, 2013, file photo, Chicago Cardinal Francis George speaks during an interview with the Associated Press in Rome, Italy. The Archdiocese of Chicago spent decades covering up the sexual abuse of children according to documents released by Church officials last week and being made public on Tuesday, Jan 21, 2014, by victims’ attorneys. George, who has led the archdiocese since 1997, released a letter to parishioners on Jan. 12 in which he apologized for the abuse and said releasing the records "raises transparency to a new level." He also stressed that much of the abuse occurred decades ago, before he became archbishop. He said all of the incidents eventually were reported to civil authorities and resulted in settlements with victims. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn, File)

  • FILE - In this March 14, 2013, file photo, Chicago Cardinal Francis George speaks during an interview with the Associated Press in Rome, Italy. Internal documents showing how officials from the Archdiocese of Chicago handled allegations of child sexual abuse by priests are about to become public when victims’ attorneys post the documents to a website Tuesday morning, Jan. 21, 2014, after receiving them from the archdiocese last week as part of legal settlements. The documents are for 30 of 65 priests for whom the archdiocese says it has credible allegations. George says the disclosures are an attempt at transparency and to help victims heal. He’s also apologized to victims and area Catholics for the abuse.  (AP Photo/Michael Sohn, File)
  • FILE - This April 17, 2002 file photo shows Chicago Cardinal Francis George listening to reporters' questions  before he left for Rome to meet with Vatican officials and other American cardinals about the child sex abuse scandals in the United States. Attorneys for sex abuse victims will post thousands of documents to a website Tuesday morning, Jan. 21, 2014, after receiving them from the Archdiocese of Chicago last week as part of legal settlements. Attorneys say the documents will show that the archdiocese concealed the abuse for decades. George says the disclosures are an attempt at transparency and to help victims heal. He’s also apologized to victims and area Catholics for the abuse. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green, File)
  • Attorney Jeff Anderson, left, places his hand on the files of Catholic priests credibly accused of sexually abusing minors in the Archdiocese of Chicago, prior to a news conference Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014, in Chicago. Joining Anderson is attorney Marc Pearlman.  (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
  • This May 19, 1992 photo shows Chicago area priest Father Norbert Maday in Chicago.  The Archdiocese of Chicago spent decades covering up the sexual abuse of children according to documents released by Church officials last week and being made public on Tuesday, Jan 21, 2014, by victims’ attorneys as part of legal settlements. The internal documents show how officials from the archdiocese handled allegations of child sexual abuse by priests. Maday was imprisoned in Wisconsin after a 1994 conviction for molesting two boys.  (AP Photo/Sun-Times Media, Rich Hein)  MANDATORY CREDIT, MAGS OUT
  • FILE - In this Oct. 4, 1996 file photo, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin sits during a Mass at St. Peter's Church in Chicago. The Archdiocese of Chicago spent decades covering up the sexual abuse of children according to documents released by Church officials last week and being made public on Tuesday, Jan 21, 2014 by victims’ attorneys. For decades, those at the highest levels of the nation’s third-largest archdiocese quietly moved priests from parish to parish and took steps to keep the abuse from becoming known outside church circles. The documents show that former Cardinals John Cody and Joseph Bernardin often approved the reassignments, though some eventually were removed from ministry. (AP Photo/Beth A. Keiser, File)
  • This Aug. 27, 2007 photo provided by the Wisconsin Department of Corrections shows inmate Norbert Maday, a former Chicago area priest. The Archdiocese of Chicago spent decades covering up the sexual abuse of children according to documents released by Church officials last week and being made public on Tuesday, Jan 21, 2014, by victims’ attorneys as part of legal settlements. The internal documents show how officials from the archdiocese handled allegations of child sexual abuse by priests. Maday was imprisoned in Wisconsin after a 1994 conviction for molesting two boys. (AP Photo/Wisconsin Department of Corrections)
  • FILE - In this Aug. 30, 1996 file photo, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, 68, the senior Roman Catholic prelate in the United States and leader of Chicago's 2.3 million Catholics speaks at a news conference in Chicago.  The Archdiocese of Chicago spent decades covering up the sexual abuse of children according to documents released by Church officials last week and being made public on Tuesday, Jan 21, 2014 by victims’ attorneys. For decades, those at the highest levels of the nation’s third-largest archdiocese quietly moved priests from parish to parish and took steps to keep the abuse from becoming known outside church circles. The documents  show that former Cardinals John Cody and Joseph Bernardin often approved the reassignments, though some eventually were removed from ministry. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green, File)
  • FILE - In this March 14, 2013, file photo, Chicago Cardinal Francis George speaks during an interview with the Associated Press in Rome, Italy. The Archdiocese of Chicago spent decades covering up the sexual abuse of children according to documents released by Church officials last week and being made public on Tuesday, Jan 21, 2014, by victims’ attorneys. George, who has led the archdiocese since 1997, released a letter to parishioners on Jan. 12 in which he apologized for the abuse and said releasing the records "raises transparency to a new level." He also stressed that much of the abuse occurred decades ago, before he became archbishop. He said all of the incidents eventually were reported to civil authorities and resulted in settlements with victims. But victims’ lawyers have stressed that many of the allegations, if not the actual abuse, surfaced after George assumed control of the archdiocese, and some of the documents relate to how the church handled the cases much more recently. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn, File)
  • FILE - In this March 14, 2013, file photo, Chicago Cardinal Francis George speaks during an interview with the Associated Press in Rome, Italy. The Archdiocese of Chicago spent decades covering up the sexual abuse of children according to documents released by Church officials last week and being made public on Tuesday, Jan 21, 2014, by victims’ attorneys. George, who has led the archdiocese since 1997, released a letter to parishioners on Jan. 12 in which he apologized for the abuse and said releasing the records "raises transparency to a new level." He also stressed that much of the abuse occurred decades ago, before he became archbishop. He said all of the incidents eventually were reported to civil authorities and resulted in settlements with victims. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn, File)
  • This Oct. 3, 2002 photo shows former priest William Cloutier in Skokie, Ill. In 1979, Cloutier, a priest at St. Damian’s in Oak Forest, Ill., was accused of raping a 13-year-old boy and threatening him a gunpoint to keep quiet. The Archdiocese of Chicago assured the boy’s parents that although the cleric avoided prosecution, he would receive treatment and have no further contact with minors. But Cloutier was returned to ministry a year later and didn’t resign until 1993, two years after the boy’s parents filed a lawsuit. The Archdiocese of Chicago spent decades covering up the sexual abuse of children according to documents released by Church officials last week and being made public on Tuesday, Jan 21, 2014 by victims’ attorneys.  (AP Photo/Sun-Times Media, Keith Hale)  MANDATORY CREDIT, MAGS OUT
  • Attorney Jeff Anderson, left, places his hand on the files of Catholic priests credibly accused of sexually abusing minors in the Archdiocese of Chicago, prior to a news conference Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014, in Chicago. Joining Anderson is attorney Marc Pearlman.  (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
  • FILE - In this March 14, 2013, file photo, Chicago Cardinal Francis George speaks during an interview with the Associated Press in Rome, Italy. The Archdiocese of Chicago spent decades covering up the sexual abuse of children according to documents released by Church officials last week and being made public on Tuesday, Jan 21, 2014, by victims’ attorneys. George, who has led the archdiocese since 1997, released a letter to parishioners on Jan. 12 in which he apologized for the abuse and said releasing the records "raises transparency to a new level." He also stressed that much of the abuse occurred decades ago, before he became archbishop. He said all of the incidents eventually were reported to civil authorities and resulted in settlements with victims. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn, File)

Top leaders at the Archdiocese of Chicago helped hide the sexual abuse of children as they struggled to contain a growing crisis, according to thousands of pages of internal documents that also raise new questions about how Cardinal Francis George handled the allegations even after the church adopted reforms.

The documents, released through settlements between attorneys for the archdiocese and victims, describe how priests for decades were moved from parish to parish while the archdiocese hid the clerics’ histories from the public, often with the approval of the late Cardinals John Cody and Joseph Bernardin.

Although the abuse documented in the files occurred before George became archbishop in 1997, many victims did not come forward until after he was appointed and after U.S. bishops pledged in 2002 to keep all accused priests out of ministry.

George delayed removing the Rev. Joseph Bennett, despite learning that the priest had been accused of sexually abusing girls and boys decades earlier. Even the board the cardinal appointed to help him evaluate abuse claims advised George that Bennett should be removed.

“I realize this creates a rather awkward situation, but I believe I need to reflect on this matter further,” George wrote in a Nov. 7, 2005, letter to an archdiocese child protection official. Also against the advice of his board, George had Bennett monitored by another priest who was a friend and who vacationed with Bennett.

Allegations against Bennett continued well after 2002. He has denied any wrongdoing in his communications with the archdiocese, but was forced out of ministry on Feb. 3, 2006, according to the newly public documents.

George tried to get another priest, Norbert Maday, released early from a Wisconsin prison, where he was serving time after a 1994 conviction for molesting two boys, documents show.

He also has apologized for how he handled allegations against former priest Daniel McCormack, who pleaded guilty in 2007 to abusing five children and whose case prompted an internal investigation of how the archdiocese responds to abuse claims.

“The issue is not when the abuse happened; the issue is what they did once it was reported,” said Chicago attorney Marc Pearlman, who has represented about 200 victims of clergy abuse in the Chicago area.

While disturbing stories of clergy sexual abuse have wrenched the Roman Catholic Church across the globe, the newly released documents offer the broadest look yet into how one of its largest and most prominent American dioceses responded to the scandal, even years after the abuse occurred.

The documents, posted online yesterday by victims’ attorneys, cover only 30 of the at least 65 clergy for whom the archdiocese says it has substantiated claims of child abuse. Vatican documents related to the 30 cases were not included, under the negotiated terms of the disclosure. Victims’ attorneys say they’re working to get files on the other 35 priests.

The files are being released as George, a 77-year-old cancer survivor, awaits permission from Pope Francis to retire. Naming a successor for George will be the pope’s first major appointment in the U.S. church.

In a letter distributed to parishes last week, George apologized for the abuse, and said the disclosures are an attempt to help victims heal.

The more than 6,000 pages include internal communications between church officials, disturbing testimony about specific abuses, meeting schedules where allegations were discussed and letters from anguished parishioners. The names of victims and details considered private under mental health laws were redacted.

When a young woman reported in 1970 that she’d been abused as a teen, for example, Cody assured the priest that the “whole matter has been forgotten” because “no good can come of trying to prove or disprove the allegations.”

Accused priests often were quietly sent away for a time for treatment or training programs. When they returned, officials often assigned them to new parishes and asked other priests to monitor them around children.

After a 13-year-old boy reported in 1979 that a priest raped him and later threatened him at gunpoint to keep quiet, the Archdiocese of Chicago assured the boy’s parents that although the cleric avoided prosecution, he would receive treatment and have no further contact with minors.

But the Rev. William Cloutier, who already had been accused of molesting other children, was returned to ministry a year later and accused of more abuse before he resigned in 1993, two years after the boy’s parents filed a lawsuit. Officials took no action against Cloutier over his earliest transgressions because he “sounded repentant,” according to internal archdiocese documents released yesterday that show how the archdiocese tried to contain a mounting scandal over child sexual abuse.

In one 1989 letter to Bernardin, the vicar for priests worries about parishioners discovering the record of the Rev. Vincent McCaffrey, who was moved four times because of abuse allegations.

“Unfortunately, one of the key parishioners . . . received an anonymous phone call which made reference by name to Vince and alleged misconduct on his part with young boys,” wrote the Rev. Raymond Goedert. “We all agreed that the best thing would be for Vince to move. We don’t know if the anonymous caller will strike again.”

The archdiocese released a statement yesterday saying it knows it “made some decisions decades ago that are now difficult to justify” and that society has evolved in how it deals with abuse.

“The Church and its leaders have acknowledged repeatedly that they wished they had done more and done it sooner, but now are working hard to regain trust, to reach out to victims and their families, and to make certain that all children and youth are protected,” the statement read.

For many victims, the abuse left a lifetime of emotional scars.

“Where was the church for the victims of this sick, demented, twisted pedophile?” one man wrote in a 2002 letter to George about abuse at the hands of Maday, who was imprisoned in Wisconsin after a 1994 conviction for molesting two boys. “Why wasn’t the church looking out for us? We were children, for God’s sake.”

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