* Press release from yesterday…
Attorney General Lisa Madigan today released preliminary findings of her ongoing investigation into the Catholic Church. While the six dioceses in Illinois have now publicly identified 185 clergy members as having been “credibly” accused of child sexual abuse, Madigan’s investigation has found that the dioceses have received allegations of sexual abuse of at least 500 additional priests and clergy members in Illinois.
“Because I know that the Church has too often ignored survivors of clergy sexual assault, I want to share the initial findings from our work,” Madigan said. “While the findings are preliminary, they demonstrate the need for and importance of continuing this investigation.”
Madigan began her investigation in August following the release of the Pennsylvania grand jury report describing the scope of clergy child sexual abuse in that state. Since then, Madigan and her office have spoken or met with bishops, lawyers and diocesan representatives from all six dioceses in Illinois: the Archdiocese of Chicago, and the dioceses of Belleville, Joliet, Peoria, Rockford and Springfield. Madigan’s office also has reviewed thousands of pages of documents and files from each diocese, including diocesan procedures for receiving and investigating allegations of abuse.
At the outset of the investigation, only two of the dioceses had published a list of clergy whom the diocese had determined were “credibly” accused of sexually abusing children. As a result of the investigation, the four other Illinois dioceses have compiled and published similar lists. Also as a result of Madigan’s office reviewing diocese files, over the past four months, the dioceses have added 45 clergy to the lists of those who have been “credibly” accused, resulting in a total of 185 clergy members who have been publicly identified by the dioceses. Madigan anticipates additional names will be disclosed as her office’s investigation continues.
Based on the preliminary review of the dioceses’ files, Madigan’s office has found that there are at least another 500 clergy that the Illinois dioceses have received allegations about. The investigation has revealed that allegations frequently have not been adequately investigated by the dioceses or not investigated at all. In many cases, the Church failed to notify law enforcement authorities or Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) of allegations of child sexual abuse. Among the common reasons the dioceses have provided for not investigating an allegation is that the priest or clergy member was deceased or had already resigned at the time the allegation of child sexual abuse was first reported to the diocese.
“By choosing not to thoroughly investigate allegations, the Catholic Church has failed in its moral obligation to provide survivors, parishioners and the public a complete and accurate accounting of all sexually inappropriate behavior involving priests in Illinois,” Madigan said. “The failure to investigate also means that the Catholic Church has never made an effort to determine whether the conduct of the accused priests was ignored or covered up by superiors.”
The full report is here.
Madigan acknowledged it’s not clear whether all of the newly unearthed allegations are credible.
But she noted that in many instances the church did very little to try to determine their validity.
“If they had an excuse not to investigate” a sex abuse claim internally, “they took it,” Madigan said.
“The Catholic church, they should have never been in a position to police themselves.”
In a prepared statement, Chicago Cardinal Blase Cupich acknowledged that victims of sexual abuse by Catholic priests continue to live with the pain. He said the archdiocese has been looking into the issue of sexual abuse since at least 1991, when then-Cardinal Joseph Bernardin formed a special commission. He also cited the archdiocese’s Office for the Protection of Children and Youth as a way it has tried to help survivors.
“I want to express again the profound regret of the whole church for our failures to address the scourge of clerical sexual abuse,” Cupich said in the statement. “It is the courage of the victim-survivors that has shed purifying light on this dark chapter in church history.” […]
William Kunkel, the general counsel for the Archdiocese of Chicago, said he doesn’t anticipate the public list of Chicago-area priests with credible allegations of abuse to grow. The archdiocese has no immediate plans to review past allegations — some of which go back decades — because it has already reported past allegations to prosecutors in Cook and Lake counties, Kunkel said. In cases involving a priest who has died, children are no longer at risk, Kunkel said.
“We expect to add no further names at this point. We think the list is a complete list of all priests, of all clergy who have worked in the archdiocese who have substantiated claims,” Kunkel said.
Some state Catholic leaders, under siege during a year of global scandal over bishops’ handling of abuse cases, pushed back. The crux of Madigan’s announcement was unfair and “false,” said William Kunkel, counsel for the Chicago archdiocese.
“The idea that clergy sexual abuse of minors is more extensive than [we] reported is just false,” he said.
“We don’t see lawyers, doctors, schools publishing lists like this,” he said of allegations not found to be reasonably credible. “It’s not fair to put out a list of people accused, any more than it would be fair to put out a list of accused reporters.”
The full archdiocese response, along with others, is here.
The Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests is criticizing the Illinois Catholic church for its handling of allegations of clergy sexual abuse.
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan reported Wednesday that her investigation has found as many as 690 allegations of abuse by Catholic clergy. Illinois six dioceses have reported they found 185.
Zach Hiner is executive director of SNAP. He says Madigan’s finding is why SNAP wants independent investigations by outside groups of priest abuse. He says only when Madigan began her investigation did the Illinois dioceses disclose that they were aware of 45 additional undisclosed clergy who had credible allegations against them.
Hiner says he wants every state to conduct similar investigations and wants the Justice Department to make inquiries as well.