Attorneys working on behalf of victims abused within the Catholic Church recently released a new list of nearly 400 Catholic clergy members in Illinois accused of sexual misconduct.
These were priests and other individuals that worked in parishes or schools over the past 50 plus years. The number of those accused is much higher than the estimates previously revealed by Illinois’ six Catholic dioceses.
Report Comes After Illinois Attorney General Indicated Higher Numbers of Abusers
Back in December 2018, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan released the preliminary findings of her ongoing investigation of the Catholic Church in her state. She noted that though the six dioceses publicly identified 185 clergy members as having been credibly accused of child sexual abuse, her investigation had at that time found that the dioceses actually received allegations of abuse concerning at least 500 additional priests and clergy members.
“While the findings are preliminary,” she stated, “they demonstrate the need for and importance of continuing this investigation.”
Like many other attorneys general, Madigan began her investigation after Pennsylvania released their grand jury report describing clergy abuse in that state, which affected at least 1,000 children. Her office found that the allegations made in the church had not been adequately investigated by the dioceses, and in some cases, were not investigated at all.
“The preliminary stages of this investigation have already demonstrated that the Catholic Church cannot police itself,” Madigan said.
New Report Includes All Accusations of Sexual Abuse
The new report names any priest, seminarian, or religious employee associated with the Catholic Dioceses in Illinois that had ever been accused of child sexual abuse, whether the claim was found to be credible or whether the abuse actually occurred in Illinois. The individuals worked in the Archdioceses of Chicago and the dioceses of Belleville, Joliet, Peoria, Rockford, and Springfield.
The investigators got their information from publicly available sources, claims made by survivors to the dioceses and religious orders responsible for the offenders, and legal settlements made as a result of claims of child sexual abuse.
The authors noted that they believed the Illinois dioceses had not revealed to the public the full histories of their knowledge of their sexually abusive members and employees. The report is intended to raise awareness about the issue.
Only one priest on the list is still active in ministry. He was reinstated after a previous investigation by law enforcement and child welfare found two allegations unsubstantiated. An additional priest is also currently under investigation and has been suspended from ministry until the investigation is complete.
The archdioceses of Illinois have pushed back on the claims in the report. A spokesman for the Springfield diocese dismissed it as “an impressive professional marketing brochure,” according to USA Today, and stated it does not represent a thorough and diligent review of the facts.
The Rockford dioceses stated that it had not disclosed many of the allegations listed in the new report because they had either not been substantiated or were “completely without merit.”
Many of the alleged perpetrators were named in lawsuits filed because of the abuse, but most of those cases were settled.
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