Illinois Catholic Church Withheld Names of 500 Priests Accused of Abuse

December 20, 2018 Updated: December 20, 2018

The names of at least 500 priests accused of sexual abuse of minors in Illinois were withheld by the Catholic Church, a preliminary report by the state’s attorney general, Lisa Madigan, found.

The findings, released on Dec. 19, found the state’s six dioceses publicly identified 185 clergy members as having been “credibly” accused of child sexual abuse but held back the names of at least 500 additional priests and clergy members.

“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 in a statement.

The Illinois report is the latest in the nation’s escalating scrutiny of the church. Across the country, at least 16 other state attorneys general have initiated investigations since August, according to The New York Times.

The state’s findings, although preliminary, reveal the Catholic Church’s inability to hold itself accountable, demonstrating how the institution “cannot police itself,” Madigan added.

Since the start of the investigation in August, Madigan and her office have reviewed thousands of pages of documents from each diocese and have conversed or met with bishops, lawyers, and representatives from all six dioceses.

Only two of the dioceses had publicly published a list of clergy they deemed “credibly” accused at the start of the probe. But as a result of Madigan’s ongoing investigation, four other Illinois dioceses have since compiled and published similar lists.

The state’s probe into clergy abuse also discovered that the allegations were often not adequately investigated by the dioceses, or not investigated at all. Furthermore, the church failed to notify law enforcement or the Department of Children and Family Services of the allegations in many of the cases.

A common reason the diocese provided for not investigating certain allegations was that the clergy member was already deceased or had resigned at the time the allegation 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 attorney general said the church’s failed investigations also meant that the institution never inspected if the conduct of the accused priests was ignored or covered up by superiors.

The nine-page report does not name any accused priests, but it highlights the wide gap between the number of allegations sent to the church from victims and those the church deemed credible.

Cardinal Blase J. Cupich, the archbishop of Chicago, apologized for the church’s failure to act on the allegations.

“I want to express again the profound regret of the whole church for our failures to address the scourge of clerical sexual abuse,” he said in a statement. “It is the courage of victim-survivors that has shed purifying light on this dark chapter in church history.”

As of Dec. 19, Madigan’s office had received over 300 communications to their clergy abuse hotline first launched in August.

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