Nearly 2,000 children abused by Catholic clergy over decades, Illinois AG report says

Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul released a report May 23 revealing decades of abuse by Catholic clergy against nearly 2,000 children.

The report, unveiled at a press conference on May 23 and totaling nearly 700 pages, concludes a multi-year investigation launched in 2018 into the sexual abuse of children by 451 clergy and religious brothers in the six Catholic dioceses of the ‘Illinois.

Prior to Raoul’s investigation, Catholic dioceses in Illinois publicly listed only 103 credibly accused abusers.

According to Raoul’s office, attorneys and investigators “reviewed more than 100,000 pages of documents held by the dioceses and received more than 600 confidential contacts from survivors through emails, letters, interviews and phone calls.”

“I was raised and confirmed in the Catholic Church and sent my children to Catholic schools. I believe the church is doing important work to support vulnerable populations,” Raoul said in a May 23 statement. “However, as with any allegedly reputable institution, the Catholic Church must be held accountable when it betrays the public trust.”

He added that while “these perpetrators can never be held accountable in court,” their names in the report “would provide public accountability and a measure of healing to survivors who have long suffered in silence.”

Chicago Cardinal Blase J. Cupich said in a statement that archdiocesan officials “have not studied the report in detail, but are concerned about the data that may be misunderstood or presented in a misleading manner. “.

Among what he said church officials “know to be true” is that the 451 clergy named in the report include priests already on the six diocesan websites. “ALL have been reported to civil authorities, none have been undisclosed, none have been ‘hidden in plain sight’ since at least 2002.”

Likewise, the Bishop of Rockford, David J. Malloy – who “first and foremost (apologized) for the pain endured by victims of childhood sexual abuse” – said the report by Raoul contained “inaccuracies”.

Allegations that “known abusers (are) actively ministering” in the Diocese of Rockford are “to the best of our knowledge…simply untrue,” Bishop Malloy said.

He added that the Diocese of Rockford has “worked cooperatively” with the attorney general’s office since the investigation was opened in August 2018, and “at no time” during the four-and-a-half-year investigation. the diocese has “never been informed that the attorney general is of this opinion.

“The Attorney General’s report identifies 160 priests who he says should be on public lists, but are not. However, the Attorney General reports that none of these 160 priests are or were in any way affiliated with the Diocese of Rockford,” Bishop Malloy said.

He added that protocols for a safe environment in the Diocese of Rockford were established in 1987, some 15 years before the U.S. bishops created their “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People,” also known as the Dallas charter for the city where the bishops meeting was held when adopted.

The Diocese of Peoria said in a statement that such protocols “have done much to combat the scourge of sexual abuse” and that “to the knowledge of the Diocese, there is not a single priest in the Diocese with a substantiated allegation. who is currently in the ministry or who has not been reported to the authorities”.

Yet Bishop Ronald A. Hicks of Joliet pointed out that “although the majority of the abuse occurred decades ago, many victims/survivors remain haunted to this day.”

“Some may think, ‘I thought it was over.’ No sin of such magnitude as the sexual abuse of minors should ever be forgotten,” he said in a May 23 statement. this will never happen again.”

Springfield Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki credited Raoul’s office with “bringing greater transparency” and “keeping focus on this issue to help us maintain the vigilance” needed to guard against future threats of abuse.

The report “(serves) as a reminder that some of the Church’s clergy have committed heinous and shameful sins against innocent victims and caused damage that simply cannot be undone,” Bishop Paprocki said. “We hope the Attorney General’s office will continue this vigilance to create a safer environment with other institutions, and it doesn’t stop at the Catholic Church.”

While noting that he would “need time to read and fully absorb” the report, Bishop Michael G. McGovern of Belleville said it was “crucial” to understand that “nothing is more important to us than the well-being of young people entrusted to our care”. and that the Diocese of Belleville “takes all allegations of inappropriate or sexual misconduct seriously.”

“On behalf of our community, I offer my deepest apologies to all who have been harmed by the failure to properly prevent and respond to child sexual abuse by clerics,” Bishop McGovern said.

“We must think first of the survivors of sexual abuse who carry the burden of these crimes throughout their lives,” Cardinal Cupich said in his statement. “On behalf of the Archdiocese, I apologize to all those who have been harmed by the failure to prevent and properly respond to child sexual abuse by clerics. The survivors will forever be in our prayers, and we have dedicated ourselves to eradicating this problem and healing the victims.

“For more than 30 years, the Archdiocese of Chicago has been at the forefront of developing and improving policies and programs to address the scourge of child sexual abuse and to support survivors,” he said, adding: “I hope the report’s attention to the issue will encourage those who work with minors to learn from our experience and take action to protect all children from sexual abuse.

In a May 23 statement, the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, known as SNAP, called the report “staggering.”

SNAP also claimed that the release of the report explained a May 19 press release from the six Catholic dioceses in the state outlining the safe environment policies and procedures each had in place.

“With today’s news, we now know why these church leaders felt the need to remind parents and parishioners of these policies,” SNAP said, alleging that “these policies are weak, vague and rarely followed. “.

Attorney Jeff Anderson, who has represented many survivors of cleric abuse, said in a May 23 statement that the report was “the most survivor-centered, strongest[Attorney General’s]report and the deepest – a fundamental exposition exposing the crimes of those who chose to abuse”. their positions of power.

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