I praise Chicago Judge Jeffrey Lawrence for his latest order and commend him for acknowledging the hurt and destruction caused by Jesuit officials in their cover-up of Fr. Donald McGuire’s predatory actions. Judge Lawrence ruled yesterday that survivors John Doe 117, John Doe 118, and John Doe 129, all of whom were sexually abused by Fr. McGuire as minors, can seek punitive damages in their lawsuit against the Chicago Province of the Society of Jesus.
Greater than actual damages, which account for a plaintiff’s losses from harm caused by the defendant, punitive damages are intended to punish the defendant, or defendants, and deter any such action in the future.
Fr. McGuire is now behind bars and until these Jesuit officials get behind bars they will continue to cover-up.
This case against McGuire, whose conduct was kept secret for over 40 years by Jesuit officials, certainly calls for a greater level of punishment. McGuire’s history shows he was first reported to be engaging in “very suspicious behavior” as early as 1962. Reports of this nature were constantly ignored and dismissed as McGuire was transferred from Chicago to Germany, to San Francisco, to Southern California, until he eventually landed back in Chicago. Not to mention, McGuire was allowed to organize “retreats” and travel completely unsupervised with young boys.
Sadly, McGuire’s case does not stand alone; church leaders in religious orders and dioceses so routinely cover-up the abuse of priests and other religious men and women that the Jesuits’ actions are anything but unique. A number of similar situations come to mind: Cardinal George covering for Fr. McCormack in the Archdiocese of Chicago; The Dominican order’s knowledge of the abusive Rev. Aaron Cote; the widespread scandal involving top Archdiocesan officials reported by a grand jury in Philadelphia.
The Court’s openness to Plaintiff’s request for punitive damages marks an important step in punishing the Jesuits for its policies of secrecy. For the protection of today’s children, we hope that monetary penalties will ignite change. From what we’ve seen, it might be the only way.