In the final days before Cardinal Francis George retires and Archbishop Blase Cupich takes over, a dying man's request is granted. Both Cardinal George and Archbishop Cupich had been asked to intervene on behalf of Rick Springer. NBC 5 has learned the Archdiocese sent its Victim's Advocate to Springer's hospital room Friday. Springer, a survivor of priest sex abuse, had requested for years a copy of the file on his abuser, a Chicago priest. The priest died many years ago and never responded to the allegations.
Late this week, knowing Springer was told he was dying, survivors asked NBC 5 to also forward Springer's request. While he had seen the file years ago, he wanted a copy of it. Late Friday, the Archdiocese's Victim's Advocate came to Hines Veterans Hospital to see Springer in person, reading to him portions of the file and allowing him to hold it.
Rick Springer passed away Saturday afternoon -- 24 hours later -- surrounded by his many friends.
Among the visitors in his final days was Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke, who had served on the first ever National Lay Review Board for priest sex abuse.
Springer didn't know a stranger -- perhaps you met him as he drove his cab overnight through the streets of Chicago. He became involved in the group of Survivors of Abuse more than 20 years ago. For those who hopped in his cab, he had ready one of the Monopoly-like dollars he had printed, hoping churchgoers would toss them in the collection basket, letting the Archdiocese know until it released the names of priest abusers that the phony dollars would be the only donation.
Rick said he became an alcoholic in his teens, self medicating to hide the pain of being abused by his Chicago pastor when he was 13.
As the priest sex abuse story first erupted in Chicago in 1991, Rick by then had finally told his family the secret he was holding. Sober for the past 33 years, Springer was a key member of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP.
He'd often stand with other survivors at news conferences holding a poster with their pictures when they were young and innocent -- the age they were abused. No one was better informed. Springer would comb the internet for articles on the subject and forward them to SNAP's many members, as well as the media.
Diagnosed with pancreatic cancer just a few weeks ago, yesterday when I visited Rick at Hines Hospital, he expressed concern the church "was not telling the truth" and hoped the transparency he was so dedicated to would continue after he was gone.
A memorial service will be held for Rick Springer Monday evening.