Illinois Investigation Finds 500 More Clergy Abuse Cases

The findings come amid a renewed national outcry over allegations of sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests

A sweeping investigation of Catholic clergy sexual abuse by the office of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, contends that abuse of minors in Illinois is “significantly more extensive” than the six dioceses in Illinois have previously reported.

Madigan says that in the four months since her office initiated its inquiry, Diocesan offices across the state have acknowledged an additional 45 previously undisclosed clergy who they deemed “credibly” accused of sexually abusing minors. But, she said her investigators have discovered allegations of sexual abuse against more than 500 additional clergy.

“I’m not necessarily saying that all of those 500 are credible,” Madigan told NBC5. “They haven’t been substantiated—in fact what we found was that every opportunity the Church had not to investigate, they chose not to.” 

Madigan’s investigators suggested they found evidence that Church officials had effectively looked the other way on many cases. 

“So there are hundreds and hundreds of allegations against individual priests and clergy members that have either not been investigated, have not been thoroughly investigated, or if they have been investigated, even when there is credible information the names of those people have not yet been made public,” she said. “I’m shocked---I’m horrified!” 

The report says officials found dozens of examples where Illinois diocesan offices failed to perform adequate investigations, often citing the fact that a clergy member was either deceased or had resigned from ministry when the allegation was first reported. 

“Dioceses failed to investigate allegations for deceased or resigned clergy, even when they received allegations from multiple survivors,” the report states. “Failing to investigate…makes it impossible to determine whether other clergy, including those who are alive and involved with the church, helped conceal the abuse.”

The AG’s investigators said only the Archdiocese of Chicago and the Diocese of Joliet had compiled and published a list of clergy who had been credibly accused of sexual abuse. And by Wednesday evening, officials in the Chicago Archdiocese were pushing back against the attorney general’s findings. 

“I want to express again the profound regret of the whole church for our failures to address the scourge of clerical sexual abuse,” Cardinal Blasé Cupich said in a statement. And his general counsel Bill Kunkel took that one step further. 

“We really have a problem with the statement that there is a clergy sex abuse problem which is more significant than has been previously reported,” he told NBC5. “We investigate and report all allegations.” 

The Chicago Archdiocese noted that it had set up a hotline for reporting sexual abuse as far back as 1992.

“Since 2002 all allegations have been reported, regardless of when the behavior occurred,” Kunkel said. “And in 2002, my predecessors then sat down with the state’s attorney in Cook County and Lake County and they reported all things that were historic.” 

Kunkel stated bluntly, “the problem is not a current problem.” And he challenged Madigan’s finding of 500 new names. 

“I think that statement is false,” he said. “All allegations in the Archdiocese of Chicago are reported to civil authorities and investigators.” 

Nevertheless, Madigan called on Catholic Bishops who are scheduled to meet in Mundelein next month, to directly address the issue. 

“Their response needs to be very different than in the past,” she said. “They’ve had an inadequate response and there are people out there, hundreds of people, thousands of people, possibly tens of thousands of people just in Illinois alone who need them to respond properly, to take these allegations seriously, and to put the interests of survivors first.”

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