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Survivor Narratives

George W. Klein

The Archdiocese of Chicago posts a public list comprising dozens of clerics it has determined are credibly accused of sexually abusing a child. But Father George Klein’s name does not appear among them. The exact reasons why remain a mystery.

“Monica,” a survivor of Klein’s abuse, decided to share her experience with the Attorney General’s investigators because she didn’t feel satisfied with the archdiocese’s response. After reviewing Monica’s complaint in late 2011, the archdiocese’s review board determined there was “insufficient reason to suspect that [Klein] engaged in the sexual abuse of [Monica] when she was a minor.” However, the board also determined Klein’s conduct “was otherwise inappropriate” and restrictions should be placed on him. Cardinal Francis George accepted these recommendations and prohibited Klein from being alone with anyone under 18 years old or engaging in any functions with children. This outcome has bothered Monica ever since. “They’re still lying,” she says. “They’re not transparent.”

“He could have helped me,” she says. “If you can’t go to your parents or your priest, there is no one to go to.”

The abuse happened in the mid-1970s when Monica was a sophomore at Saint Benedict High School in Chicago’s North Center neighborhood. Monica’s home life was not easy. Her parents were separated, and her father abused her. One night, she was found drunk at one of her high school’s basketball games. As a result, she was sent to Klein for counseling sessions. At the time, he was the principal of Monica’s high school.

Monica says Klein lied to her about what these counseling sessions would entail. They took place in Klein’s office; at first, Monica and Klein would sit at opposite sides of his desk. He asked about her difficult home life, and she told Klein about the abuse she suffered at the hands of her father. Klein talked her out of reporting the abuse to the authorities. He insisted she would be removed from her home if she did. She now realizes Klein was lying. As the counseling continued, Klein moved to her side of the desk and started pulling her into his lap. He then molested her.

Sometimes Klein would pick Monica up after school and drive to the lake with a six pack of beer. She does not recall what happened in the car; it’s possible, she says, that he abused her there too. The abuse went on for about a year and ended at some point during her junior year of high school.

It took Monica a long time to realize what had happened. But when she did come to understand, the fact that she had trusted Klein was a source of great damage. “He could have helped me,” she says. “If you can’t go to your parents or your priest, there is no one to go to.”

In 2011, Monica’s therapist encouraged her to confront the abuse. She decided to meet with archdiocesan representatives to share her experience. The archdiocese offered her counseling for the abuse. She thought, “Are you kidding me?” It was counseling from a priest that led to her abuse. Why, she wondered, would she ever accept more counseling from the church?

The archdiocese restricted Klein’s ministry pending an investigation of Monica’s claims. They hired an investigative firm to run a background check on her, as well as to speak to various potential witnesses. She says that the archdiocese wanted to talk to her mother, brothers, and sister. But those interviews never took place; she did not consent after the support group SNAP—Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests—advised her the archdiocese would “twist those interviews against” her. The archdiocese also interviewed Klein, who denied her account.

It was counseling from a priest that led to her abuse. Why, she wondered, would she ever accept more counseling from the church?

Then came the review board’s December 2011 decision that baffles Monica even today. The board determined there was “insufficient reason to suspect that [Klein] engaged in the sexual abuse” of Monica. It also determined, however, that “Klein’s conduct does not constitute sexual abuse of a minor but [was] otherwise inappropriate.” Monica wonders, “What does that mean? To this day, I don’t know what that means.” When she asked the archdiocese for an explanation, she says the archdiocese refused to explain.

Adding to the confusion are the additional concerns raised to the cardinal by the review board. The board chided Klein for his “Lack of impulse control,” “Lack of understanding of boundaries,” “Poor judgment in [his] role as a counselor,” “Repeated inappropriate relationships with women,” and “Dishonesty.” Based on this and other information acquired during the investigation, the board said Klein should be “permanently restricted from public sacramental ministry.” The cardinal accepted the board’s recommendation within a day.

Monica feels the archdiocese’s failure to acknowledge her allegations as credible is an effort to protect the image of the institution: “Their image is their priority, not the victims.”

Yet, Klein quickly returned to the altar. He began saying mass at Saint Philip the Apostle in Northfield, where he resided, shortly after the review board’s determination. Cardinal George wrote Klein in February 2012 to remind him of his restrictions. Not only was he forbidden to celebrate public mass or perform other sacraments, he was also forbidden to be alone with anyone under 18, to teach or engage in any other functions with children, and to engage in pastoral counseling of any form.

Eventually, however, some of these restrictions were peeled away. In September 2012, less than a year after the review board’s decision, Klein was given permission to concelebrate at funeral masses of priests, wedding masses of friends, or other special occasions. In November 2012, the vicar for priests wrote to Klein noting that it was no longer necessary for someone to stay with him in the parish rectory while the other resident priest was away. And in December 2014, Klein was given permission to occasionally offer a public weekday mass at Saint Philip.

In April 2015, Klein wrote to the new Chicago archbishop, Blase Cupich, questioning his decision to reinstate restrictions imposed by Cardinal George. He asked for an audience to plead his case, but the archbishop declined:

While you chronicle a number of developments in your background that led to the present moment, there is one aspect that seems to be missing in this present correspondence and in earlier letters, namely, your own need to take full responsibility for the damage that you have done to various people. You seem to lack even in this present correspondence self-awareness and internal freedom to your own behavior, which puts into doubt your ability to exercise prudent and sound judgment in the future. That is a concern to me, as you seem to minimize the harm that you have done to others.

The archbishop was firm that Klein’s restrictions would remain in place: “There really is nothing that is going to change my mind on this, and I believe that you need to examine very carefully your need to take responsibility for your actions.”

Yet even the archbishop’s admonition would not keep Klein from pushing the boundaries of his restrictions. He offered a reading at a wake in November 2016 while wearing clerical garb. Archdiocesan officials debated whether this constituted a violation of Klein’s protocols, specifically the prohibition on celebrating sacraments or devotional practices without permission. It is unclear what resulted.

Klein died in 2018. To this day, his name does not appear on the archdiocese’s public list of clerics with credible accusations of child sex abuse, despite his noted dishonesty, his repeated inappropriate relationships with women, and his acknowledged inappropriate behavior. Monica feels the archdiocese’s failure to acknowledge her allegations as credible is an effort to protect the image of the institution: “Their image is their priority, not the victims.” The archdiocese is “still not accountable,” she says. But she is clear on one thing: the archdiocese’s inclusion of Klein on its public list would aid in her healing. Whether the archdiocese will take that step remains to be seen.

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Terms are defined as provided in the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops Glossary of Catholic Terms, unless denoted with *.

Altar server
Individuals, usually children, who assist clerics during liturgical functions such as mass. Prior to 1994, only men and boys were permitted to be altar servers.*
The title given automatically to bishops who govern archdioceses. It is also given to certain other high-ranking church officials.
The chief diocese of an ecclesiastical province. It is governed by an archbishop.
Auxiliary Bishop
A bishop assigned to a Catholic diocese or archdiocese to assist its residential bishop.
The highest order of ordained ministry in the Catholic Church. The chief priests in their respective dioceses. Bishops are responsible for the pastoral care of their dioceses. All bishops have a responsibility to act in council with other bishops to guide the church.
A man who has taken vows in a religious order but is not ordained or studying for the priesthood. Sometimes he is called a lay brother to distinguish him from ordained members of religious orders.
Canon Law

A code of ecclesiastical laws governing the Catholic Church.

Highest-ranking Catholic clergy below the pope. Cardinals are regarded as the pope's closest advisors. Most cardinals are archbishops.
The chief archivist of a diocese's official records. Also a notary and secretary of the diocese’s central administration.
Clergy is a collective term referring to all those ordained—bishops, priests, and deacons—who administer the rites of the church. A cleric is an individual member of the clergy. Only men are permitted to join the clergy.
Confession or Reconciliation
The Catholic sacrament in which one makes a voluntary self-accusation of sins to a qualified priest in private in order to obtain absolution. The priest provides the confessor, also known as the penitent, with a penance to atone for sins committed. A priest who hears confession is forbidden from disclosing the contents of a confession to others under what is called the seal of confession.*
The personnel and offices through which (1) the pope administers the affairs of the universal church (the Roman Curia), or (2) a bishop administers the affairs of a diocese (the diocesan curia). The principal officials of a diocesan curia are the vicar general, the chancellor, officials of the diocesan tribunal or court, examiners, consultors, auditors, and notaries.
Dallas Charter
The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People sets forth policies for each United States archdiocese and diocese to adopt as part of an effort to address allegations of child sex abuse by Catholic clergy. The Charter was formulated at the 2002 meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in Dallas, Texas. The Charter was revised in 2005, 2011, and 2018.
One of three groups that comprise the clergy, meaning those ordained for ministry. Only men are permitted to become deacons. Deacons preparing for the priesthood are transitional deacons. Those not planning to be ordained priests are called permanent deacons. Married men may be ordained permanent deacons, but only unmarried men committed to lifelong celibacy can be ordained deacons if they are planning to become priests.
Diocesan Priest
Priests under the direction of their local bishop. Most serve in the parishes of the diocese, but they may also be assigned to other diocesan ministries or released for service outside the diocese.
A territorial division of the Church headed by a bishop.
Extern Priest
A priest with faculties to minister in a diocese or archdiocese who was not ordained in that diocese or archdiocese. For example, a diocesan priest from the Diocese of Springfield who has been granted faculties to minister by the Archdiocese of Chicago is an extern priest.*
Church authorization, given by the law itself or by a Church superior, to perform certain official acts.
Members of the Catholic Church. Derived from Catholic teachings that clergy are like shepherds guiding a flock.*
Laicize or Defrock
The process by which a priest is returned to the lay state. It is sometimes used as a penalty for a serious crime, but also can come at the request of the priest. A laicized priest is barred from all priestly ministry with one exception: He may give absolution to someone in immediate danger of death. The pope must approve all requests for laicization. When a priest is laicized without his consent for a crime, such as committing child sexual abuse, it is sometimes called defrocking.
Any activity conducive to the salvation of souls. It can include ordained ministry such as liturgical leadership and administration of the sacraments, or lay ministry such as instructing children in the faith, serving the poor, visiting the sick, or being an altar server, reader, or music leader at mass.
An honorary ecclesiastical title granted by the pope to some diocesan priests.
A member of a religious order of women who has taken solemn or simple vows.
Ordination is the sacramental ceremony in which a man becomes a deacon, priest, or bishop. A cleric who has undergone ordination is known as ordained.*
A specific community within a diocese with its own church building and under the authority of a pastor who is responsible for providing ministerial service. Most parishes are formed on a geographic basis, but they may be formed along national or ethnic lines.
A priest in charge of a Catholic parish or congregation.
Acts performed to atone for committed sins, as directed by a priest in the Catholic sacrament of reconcilliation.*
Residential housing for clergy provided by the Church. A rectory can also contain administrative offices for a parish.*
Religious Cleric
Professed member of a religious order or institute. Religious clergy live according to the rule of their respective orders.
Religious Order or Order
An institution of men or women, at least some of whose members take solemn vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, and whose male members are sometimes ordained.*
An educational institution for men preparing for the priesthood.
A cleric who acts in the name of another cleric.*
Vicar general
A priest, auxiliary bishop, or coadjutor bishop who assists the diocesan bishop in the governance of the diocese.
Victims Assistance Coordinator

A diocesan employee who has been designated to coordinate assistance to survivors of sex abuse by clerics.*