Five lawsuits were filed Wednesday against the Joliet Diocese alleging sexual abuse by four priests dating back as far as the 1950s.
The accusers' attorneys released thousands of documents they say shows a pattern of protecting priests at the expense of their young victims.
"In each case, because the Diocese of Joliet in the past and to the present has, in our view, failed to protect the children and have failed institutionally to do the right thing," attorney Jeff Anderson said.
The cases were made possible by a settlement clergy abuse survivor David Rudofski made with the Diocese in which he demanded that more than 7,000 pages of secret files be released detailing cases involving 16 priests.
"It's not over, but I feel a small sense of relief that these documents are the first step in trying to make things better," Rudofski said.
Many of the cases passed through the hands of former Joliet bishop Joseph Imesch, who Anderson deposed about other cases in 2005.
"Do you report when any of these offenders admit to you they have committed crimes against children to the police? His answer was, 'No, why would I do that?'" Anderson said.
The Joliet Diocese released a statement Wednesday saying it will respond to the lawsuits after it receives them, and stated, "Anyone who may have been sexually abused as a minor by a member of the clergy, employee or volunteer of the Diocese to report the abuse to civil authorities and to the Diocese.”
But the attorney in the lawsuit say the say the Diocese of Joliet was no better or worse in the way it handled allegations of sexual abuse than any other. They say it follows a pattern they've seen nationwide.
"Until there is a single bishop in this country removed for their coverup of these sex abuse crimes, the Diocese has zero credibility," attorney Marc Pearlman said.