Fall trial will decide if ex-priest can be committed for sexual abuse

- A Cook County judge this fall will determine whether defrocked Chicago priest Daniel McCormack will remain in state custody indefinitely, even after serving prison time for molesting young boys at his West Side parish.

McCormack has been held at a state Department of Health institution in downstate Rushville, following his release from prison on a five-year sentence for fondling five boys. Cook County Judge Dennis Porter will rule on whether to commit McCormack to custody of the state Department of Human Services after a bench trial set to begin on Sept. 6, the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting.

Prosecutors and the state Attorney General’s Office moved to have McCormack ruled a “sexually violent person” in 2010, as his parole date was approaching. Proceedings dragged on as McCormack faced criminal charges as other boys came forward with allegations of abuse, but those cases had largely fallen apart as his accusers refused to testify.

Under the state’s Sexually Violent Persons Commitment Act, a person can be committed if they have been convicted of a sexually violent offense and suffer from a mental disorder that makes them likely to commit future violent sexual acts. Once committed, offenders can’t be released from custody until another evaluation determines they are fit for less stringent confinement.

At present, there are about 400 people who have been committed to DHS custody under the act, and an additional 187 cases are pending, said Maura Possley, spokeswoman for Attorney General Lisa Madigan.

McCormack was expelled from the priesthood after pleading guilty to molesting the boys, ages 8 to 12, in 2007. Archdiocese officials had determined there were 30 substantiated claims of sexual abuse by McCormack, and have paid out millions to settle lawsuits from victims, alleging church officials did nothing to keep the priest away from children even after he was arrested for the first time in 2005.

The Archdiocese of Chicago paid out $4.5 million to three of McCormack’s victims last month, boys who claimed they were sexually abused by the priest from 2004 to 2005, while he was running “S.A.F.E.” an after-school program at West Side Catholic School and St. Agatha Church.

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