On June 23, 2021, the Archdiocese of Chicago announced a settlement agreement of $880,000 with two child sexual abuse survivors. Two men claim they were sexually assaulted by former Chicago priest Norbert Maday decades ago.
The men were students and altar boys at St. Bede the Venerable Elementary School on the South Side of Chicago. The abuse started when they were 10 years old.
The $880,000 settlement is the most recent settlement paid by the Chicago Archdiocese. The archdiocese has paid more than $200 million in clergy abuse settlements. In total, the Roman Catholic Church has paid more than $3 billion in settlements to survivors of clergy abuse.
Chicago Priest Abused Children For Decades
In 1994, Maday was convicted for the sexual abuse of two boys in Wisconsin. This lawsuit also involved Thomas Hacker, a local Boy Scouts troop leader. Hacker would join Maday on retreats. During these retreats, the men would molest children.
Hacker is currently serving a 50-year prison sentence. He was also named in a 2012 abuse lawsuit against the Boy Scouts of America.
Since the 1994 conviction, survivors have filed more priest abuse lawsuits against Maday, alleging a long history of abuse. From 1967 to 1986, Maday worked at six parishes in the Chicago area. During this time, atleast 14 survivors have come forward with claims of abuse against Maday, including the two recipients of the recent settlement.
Archdiocese Initially Covered Up Maday’s Abuse
A 2014 investigation uncovered further details about clergy abuse in the Chicago Archdiocese. There are thousands of diocesan documents detailing abuse cover-ups. Many of these documents reference Maday.
For example, in a letter found among these documents, former Cardinal Francis George attempted to have Maday released early from prison after his 1994 conviction. “It would be a great fulfillment of the millennium spirit to see your captive heart set free,” George wrote in a letter to Maday in 2000.
In 2007, George reversed his position, days before Maday’s scheduled release. George wrote a letter to the Parole Commission of Wisconsin. In his letter, George explained he removed Maday from the priesthood. “My first reason is the protection of the vulnerable,” George wrote. “It would be a cause of scandal … if he were to return to the Chicago metropolitan area and remain a priest.”
Despite this reversal of opinion, Maday was released in 2007. In 2014, the sexual offender registry listed Maday’s address in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Attorneys for the Chicago Archdiocese said they believe Maday has since died.
Catholic Diocese Are Being Held Accountable Financially
The Chicago Archdiocese agreed to the $880,000 settlement before a lawsuit was formally filed. One attorney noted, “This is a sharp departure from prior responses and it is a good sign [because] the church itself is recognizing what has happened in the past.”
He added that he views this as, “an indication of a new culture of protection, healing and accountability.”
Historically, the majority of abuse survivors have agreed to settlements outside the legal system. This allowed the Catholic Church to avoid costly litigation and conceal incidents of priest sexual abuse. Victims who agreed to these private settlements were prohibited from speaking publicly about the allegations and settlement details. This practice reinforced the decades of silence around church abuse.
Only recently has the Roman Catholic Church begun publicly settling abuse claims. In 2007, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles paid the largest settlement to date. The archdiocese paid $660 million to 508 abuse survivors. Each claimant received around $1.3 million.
The Chicago Archdiocese and other dioceses in Illinois will likely continue to publicly announce future settlements as more survivors seek justice.
Babwin, D. (2021, June 23). Chicago Archdiocese settles sexual abuse suit for $880,000. The Associated Press.
Tarm, M. (2014, January 23). New suit filed in Chicago priest abuse case. The State Journal-Register.