Chicago, IL- Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan on Wednesday issued a blistering report about clergy sexual abuse, saying that Catholic dioceses in Illinois has not released the names of at least 500 clergy accused of sexually abusing children.
The preliminary report found that the church’s six archdioceses have done a woefully inadequate job of investigating allegations and in some cases did not investigate them at all or notify the state’s child welfare agency. The report said accusations have been leveled against 690 priests, while Catholic officials have publicly identified only 185 clergy with credible allegations against them.
The determination is part of a preliminary report made public Wednesday by Madigan’s office, which has been investigating Catholic clergy sexual abuse of minors following revelations during the summer of widespread abuse and cover-ups by Catholic officials in Pennsylvania. The report was critical of the six Catholic dioceses that govern parishes across Illinois for their lack of transparency and flawed investigations.
Although the report says that “Clergy sexual abuse of minors in Illinois is significantly more extensive than the Illinois Dioceses previously reported,” it does not estimate how many of the allegations against the 690 clergy should have been deemed credible. Some of the allegations go back decades.
The report says Illinois dioceses “have lost sight of both a key tenet” of policies laid out by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops as well as “the most obvious human need as a result of these abhorrent acts of abuse: the healing and reconciliation of survivors.”
“Long after legal remedies have expired, the Catholic Church has the ability and moral responsibility to survivors to offer support and services, and to take swift action to remove abusive clergy,” the report states.
Illinois church leaders expressed regret about the abuse, but pointed to steps they have taken to address what has become an international crisis.
Chicago’s archbishop, Cardinal Blase J. Cupich, in a statement said that although he regretted “our failures to address the scourge of clerical sexual abuse,” the archdiocese has been a leader in dealing with the issue, including a policy since 2002 of reporting “all allegations of child sexual abuse to civil authorities.”
The Springfield diocese said that it reviewed paper files of clergy dating to its 1923 founding and provided Madigan’s office with documentation of each instance of abuse, regardless of whether it was deemed credible, according to a statement.
The Diocese of Joliet said in a statement that it took steps such as establishing in 1993 a review committee made up of people from law enforcement, social service agencies and others to investigate allegations of sexual abuse.
Madigan said her office’s findings make it clear that notifying authorities is critical, and pointing to instances when dioceses used personal information about people to discredit them and help them conclude accusations weren’t credible. “The preliminary stages of this investigation have already demonstrated that the Catholic Church cannot police itself,” she said.