Archdiocese of Chicago settles sex abuse claim against the Rev. George Clements: lawyer

Clements, who died in 2019, was a pastor at Holy Angels and also marched with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

SHARE Archdiocese of Chicago settles sex abuse claim against the Rev. George Clements: lawyer
 the late Rev. George Clements, seen here in 2017

A sexual abuse allegation against the late Rev. George Clements, seen here in 2017, is part of a settlement reached with the Archdiocese of Chicago, according to the law firm representing Clements’ alleged victim.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times file

The Archdiocese of Chicago has reached an $800,000 settlement over claims of sexual abuse by the late Rev. George Clements, the famed Holy Angels pastor, and four other Chicago-area religious figures, according to lawyers representing the alleged abuse victims.

An attorney for Clements’ now 54-year-old alleged victim called Tuesday for Cardinal Blase Cupich to place Clements on the archdiocese’s public list of “credibly accused priests.”

“The hiding has to stop. The secrecy has to stop,” Boston-based attorney Mitch Garabedian told reporters.

The settlement — a copy of which was emailed to the Chicago Sun-Times — does not include any admission of wrongdoing on the part of the archdiocese.

The settlement also references Brother Edward C. Courtney, who served at all three Chicago-area Irish Christian Brothers high schools — Brother Rice on the Far South Side, St. Laurence in Burbank and Leo on the South Side — in the 1960s and 1970s as well as order-run schools in Michigan and Washington. The Chicago Sun-Times reported last year that Courtney has been accused of being a “serial sexual predator” responsible for abusing more than 50 children, according to records, interviews and news accounts.

Courtney was to “have no contact with Rice, Leo or Laurence in any way, shape or form,” a leader of the order wrote in the 1970s after a series of abuse accusations.

A spokesman for the archdiocese declined to comment Tuesday, saying the church does not comment on litigation.

Clements died in November 2019. He was a longtime civil rights advocate from the city’s South Side. He marched with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in Chicago, Alabama and Mississippi.

He was also known as the first Catholic priest to adopt a child and, later, three more.

In August 2019, Clements was accused of sexually abusing a minor in 1974 while pastor of Holy Angels in Bronzeville. At the time, Cupich asked Clements “to step aside from ministry” pending the outcome of an investigation.

At the time, Clements told the Sun-Times the allegation was “totally unfounded.”

The status of that internal investigation is unclear, but Clements is not included on the archdiocesan list of credibly accused priests. That list was last updated in June 2021.

Garabedian said Tuesday that Clements abused his client “at least 20 times” between 1974 to 1979. The alleged abuse, occurring when the victim was between 7 and 12 years old, took place in the church rectory, in Clements’ car and on a camping trip, Garabedian said.

The lawyer described the alleged abuse as “the worst you can imagine.”

“When my client reported the abuse to his mother, his mother locked him in the closet and said, ‘Don’t ever talk about Father Clements like that again,’” Garabedian said.

The lawyer said the settlement was reached in February.

Garabedian’s client, who lives in the Chicago area, was not made available Tuesday. But Garabedian said the client was interviewed by archdiocesan lawyers last year.

Legal settlements were also reached involving allegations against several other Chicago-area priests, all of whom are either dead or no longer in active ministry.

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