Bishops in Illinois plan to work with attorney general on sex abuse inquiry

Springfield, Ill., Aug 27, 2018 / 11:55 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Several Illinois bishops have indicated their desire to discuss with the state attorney general their dioceses’ sexual abuse policies, noting the steps they have taken against clergy misconduct.

Illinois attorney general Lisa Madigan said Aug. 23 that the Church “has a moral obligation to provide its parishioners and the public a complete and accurate accounting of all sexually inappropriate behavior involving priests in Illinois.”

She indicated that the Pennsylvania grand jury report on clerical sex abuse of minors identified “at least seven priests with connections to Illinois,” and that the Archdiocese of Chicago had already agreed to meet with her.

“I plan to reach out to the other dioceses in Illinois to have the same conversation and expect the bishops will agree and cooperate fully. If not, I will work with states’ attorneys and law enforcement throughout Illinois to investigate,” Madigan wrote.

The following day, the Diocese of Rockford stated: “We look forward to discussing with the Attorney General’s office the Diocese’s sexual abuse policies and procedures.”

The diocese added that it has had policies for the proper handling of reports of sexual abuse since 1987, and that these are compliant “with the requirements of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, including notifying law enforcement and screening and training of our clergy, employees and volunteers, and the training of minors in the dignity of their bodies and how to resist and report inappropriate conduct. We have worked cooperatively with our law enforcement officials and the State’s Attorneys’ offices.”

The Rockford diocese also encouraged victims of sexual abuse by clerics, religious, or laity affiliated with the local Church to contact police and its own victims abuse hotline.

Also on Aug. 24, the Diocese of Joliet said, “we look forward to assisting the Attorney General’s office in answering questions about our policies and procedures regarding clergy misconduct with minors.”

The Joliet diocese noted its adoption of the policies of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, and that since the charter’s implementation in 2002, it “has been audited annually by a third party for our compliance with the Charter and has passed each year.”

It said it reports “all allegations of sexual abuse by clergy or other employees to the appropriate law enforcement agencies and State’s Attorney’s Offices,” and provided a link to its office for youth protection.

“The Diocese of Joliet is pleased to be a partner with state law enforcement officials to make every available effort to protect young people,” the local Church stated.

And Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield in Illinois said Aug. 25 that “I certainly agree to speak with [Madigan] and pledge our diocese’s full cooperation with law enforcement officials to make every available effort to protect our people.”

“We welcome this opportunity to review the firm commitments we have made and the concrete steps we have taken to protect against clergy misconduct in our diocese.”

He said, “We are also willing to consider any additional actions that would be helpful in making our safe environment program more effective.”

Bishop Paprocki also provided information about the diocese’s safe environment program and how to report abuse.

The Pennsylvania grand jury report which occasioned Madigan’s statement was drafted by the office of the Pennsylvania attorney general. The report followed an 18-month investigation into thousands of alleged instances of abuse spanning several decades in six of the state’s dioceses. It identified more than 300 priests accused of abusing more than 1,000 victims.

The report’s release has led to calls for similar investigations in other states.

The Missouri attorney general does not have the authority to convene a like grand jury, but the Archbishop of St. Louis nevertheless invited the state’s attorney general Aug. 23 to conduct an inspection of its files related to allegations of sexual abuse and to produce an independent report.

A lawyer who has represented clerical sex abuse victims in Minnesota has called for a grand jury to investigate that state’s dioceses.

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