Investigation Reveals 450+ Clergy Abusers in the Illinois Catholic Church

A shocking investigation released by the Illinois Attorney General’s office on May 23rd revealed that 451 Catholic clergymen sexually abused nearly 2,000 children in the state within 70 years, more than four times than the 103 victims reported by the church when investigations began in 2018.

During a news conference, Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul said investigators found that 451 Catholic clergy members in the state abused 1,997 children between 1950 to 2019, covering 69 years.

It is my hope that this report will shine light both on those who violated their positions of power and trust to abuse innocent children and on the men in church leadership who covered up that abuse,” Raoul said at the conference, crediting those who accused the church for making the investigation possible.

These perpetrators may never be held accountable in a court of law, but by naming them here, the intention is to provide a public accountability and a measure of healing to survivors who have long suffered in silence,” Raoul added.

The lengthy report also paints a painful picture of how Illinois church leaders are slow to acknowledge the severity of the abuse within the clergy. They were also accused of deliberately holding back actions that would confront the accused clergy and failing to warn devotees about possible abusers, sometimes even after decades after a clergyman was accused of abuse.

The investigation began in 2018 under Raoul’s predecessor, Lisa Madigan, who released a ferocious report on the abuse before she left office. Raoul, the current attorney general of Illinois, promised to continue the investigation, which saw 25 staff members review more than 100,000 pages of documents from the state’s dioceses and engage in more than 600 confidential conversations with contacts.

The report also mentioned victims who thought about taking their own lives after being abused and those who turned to alcohol or drugs to deal with “anxiety and feelings of unworthiness.”

While the report shocked many, the findings echoed known facts and scandals about dioceses in the United States, and some said that the reported numbers of victims and abusers might have been underreported.

There is no questioning the facts of the report – until 2018, when the investigation began, hierarchs in every Illinois diocese kept known abusers under wraps, declined to include them on their accused lists, and refused to acknowledge the truth that survivors of abuse who came forward to make a report shared with them,” the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), an organization of sexual abuse victims, said in a statement released on the same day the office of the Illinois Attorney General announced the findings of the report.

The Catholic dioceses in Illinois released a joint statement on May 26th, saying that the report prompted them to review their policies and push for unspecified changes within the church.

At this time, working with the office of the attorney general of Illinois, the leaders of all six Illinois dioceses endeavored to make clear and update our approach, mindful of our lived experience and best practices in this field,” Blase Cupich, the archbishop of Chicago, said in the joint statement.

Illinois’s scathing report on the state of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church was not the first in the United States. Other states, like Pennsylvania and Maryland, conducted lengthy investigations that revealed the scope of sexual abuse inside Catholic churches. Some states, like Louisiana, refused to launch similar investigations, despite accusations of child sexual abuse within the roster of clerics in some dioceses.

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