CNA Newsroom, May 23, 2023 / 15:27 pm (CNA).
A report published by the Illinois attorney general’s office alleges that 451 Catholic clerics and religious brothers sexually abused 1,997 victims within the state’s Catholic dioceses over a 70-year period.
The report, published May 23, unveils a comprehensive list of “substantiated child sex abuse” allegations, which the attorney general’s office compiled with assistance from each of the six dioceses in Illinois. The report covers allegations from 1950 through 2019.
Investigators from the Attorney General’s office reviewed more than 100,000 pages of documents provided by the dioceses related to abuse allegations and policies and procedures on how they dealt with the allegations. They also conducted interviews with diocesan representatives and with numerous victims who made the allegations.
The report notes that each diocese cooperated fully with this investigation, and acknowledged reforms that have been made, but Attorney General Kwame Raoul had harsh words for the Church’s leadership in the past.
“Decades of Catholic leadership decisions and policies have allowed known child sex abusers to hide, often in plain sight,” Attorney General Kwame Raoul said in a statement. “And because the statute of limitations has frequently expired, many survivors of child sex abuse at the hands of Catholic clerics will never see justice in a legal sense.”
“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’s statement continued. “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.”
In total, the report found 275 substantiated abusers in the Archdiocese of Chicago, 69 in the Diocese of Juliet, 51 in the Diocese of Peoria, 43 in the Diocese of Belleville, 32 in the Diocese of Springfield, and 24 in the Diocese of Rockford. The number is higher than 451 because some of the accused priests served in more than one diocese.
The report also alleges that the final number disclosed in the attorney general’s report is much higher than the number disclosed previously by Illinois Catholic dioceses.
Before the attorney general investigation, only two dioceses — the Archdiocese of Chicago and the Diocese of Joliet — posted a list of substantiated sexual abuse on their websites, naming 103 alleged abusers. The report stated that, during the investigation, the dioceses disclosed 334 clerics and religious brothers who allegedly abused minors, which is still lower than the attorney general report of 451.
Cardinal Blase Cupich, archbishop of the Chicago archdiocese, said in a Tuesday statement that much of the discrepancy is because the report included abuse allegations from priests and religious brothers who were under the supervision of a religious order, rather than the diocese itself.
“We have not studied the report in detail but have concerns about data that might be misunderstood or are presented in ways that could be misleading,” Cardinal Cupich said.
Cupich said the 451 names disclosed include all diocesan and religious order priests and include the names already disclosed on the websites of Illinois’ six dioceses.
The dioceses do list religious priests and brothers with allegations found by their orders to be “substantiated.” The 149 names still undisclosed are “mostly religious order members who are not on our site; they are not undisclosed, and they are under the supervision and report to their respective order,” Cupich said.
In response to the report, Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki of Springfield noted that there has been a decline in abuse allegations, which suggests that the prevention measures are working.
“The changes our diocese enacted have proven to be effective as we are not aware of a single incident of sexual abuse of a minor by clergy alleged to have occurred in this diocese in nearly 20 years,” he said Tuesday.
The Diocese of Peoria said in a statement that, to the extent of its knowledge, “there is not a single priest of the diocese with a substantiated allegation who is currently in ministry or who has not been reported to authorities.”
Bishop Paprocki added that the report helps Catholics “sustain the vigilance with which we guard against any future threat of abuse.”
“The Attorney General’s inquiry into the history of clergy sexual abuse of minors in this diocese has served as a reminder that some clergy in the Church committed shameful and disgraceful sins against innocent victim-survivors and did damage that simply cannot be undone,” Bishop Paprocki said.
“As bishop of this diocese, I cannot undo the damages of the past, but I have been and continue to be fully committed to ensuring we do all we can to prevent abuse from happening again.”
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