Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro - who led an investigation into Catholic clergy members in his own state, revealing horrifying allegations of child sexual abuse - met with Democratic attorneys general and candidates in Chicago Thursday, giving advice as to how Illinois should proceed with its own inquiry.
In Chicago for a meeting of the Democratic Attorneys General Association, Shapiro noted that it took close to 100 staffers to look into years and years of files that detailed the alleged abuse of more than 1,000 children at the hands of 301 priests, using information discovered through secret archives.
The more than 1,300-page grand jury report, released in August, revealed lurid details of rape, abortions, confessions and cover-ups - sparking outrage and sending shockwaves through the Catholic Church.
"I think we're seeing in this country a moment of reckoning, not just involving the Catholic Church but involving large institutions," Shapiro said Thursday.
"These church leaders, priests and bishops would lie to parishioners on Sunday, they would lie to law enforcement," he continued. "They'd lie to the media, they'd lie to the general public. They would shield these predator priests from the arm of the law and then they would write it all down."
Outgoing Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has initiated an investigation of all six Illinois dioceses and state Sen. Kwame Raoul, the Democratic candidate looking to replace her, said that if he is elected he will continue that effort.
"In an effort to preserve the reputation of the Catholic Church there's been such a cover-up," Raoul said Thursday.
GOP candidate for attorney general Erika Harold said she also planned to "make such an investigation a priority," saying, "I fully support using the investigative and legal tools of the attorney general’s office."
At the Vatican Thursday, Cardinals DiNardo and O'Malley from the U.S. met with Pope Francis with plans for a worldwide summit on protecting children in February.
Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago said a "mass of healing" for the church will be held at the city's Holy Name Cathedral, with an ad hoc group of concerned Catholics encouraging others to wear red as a silent sign of protest.
Cupich met with Chicago priests in a closed-door session Wednesday night, described by several as a somber and worthwhile conversation.
As Raoul said he sees it, the Pennsylvania grand jury report is instructive for examining how Chicago Public Schools may have handled reports of abuse as well.
"Protecting children and bringing out the truth has to be our highest priority," Raoul said. "I can't think of a higher priority."
Madigan has spoken with either bishops or attorneys for each of the six Illinois dioceses and plans to meet with them in person in the coming weeks.