Illinois Catholic clergy sexually abused more than 1,900 minors, state attorney general says in report

Illinois Catholic clergy sexually abused more than 1,900 minors, state attorney general says in report

Illinois AG Discovers Previously Unreported Child Sexual Abuse Cases

An investigation has substantiated allegations of child abuse against Catholic clergy in Illinois by more than 1,900 victims, state Attorney General Kwame Raoul said at a news conference detailing the findings of the bureau’s five-year investigation which uncovered hundreds more cases than those first reported by dioceses in 2018.

More than 100,000 pages of diocesan documents and 600 confidential contacts with child sex abuse survivors helped the state office piece together the 696-page report released Tuesday into clergy sex abuse in the six Catholic dioceses. of Illinois, the bureau said.

“I hope this nearly 700-page report will put an end to survivors of child sexual abuse by Catholic clerics by shining a light on both those who violated their positions of power and trust, and church leaders who covered up this abuse,” Raoul said in a statement.

Raoul’s predecessor, former Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, began investigating the extent of state clergy sexual abuse in 2018 after a Pennsylvania grand jury report documented the abuse of 1,000 minors in six dioceses in that state, the office said. Revelations in this report shocked dioceses across the country and many state attorneys general pledged to investigate clergy in their own states – Illinois included.

At that time, Catholic dioceses in Illinois only publicly listed 103 convicted child sex offenders, the office said.

The survey covered the six dioceses in Illinois — Chicago, Belleville, Joliet, Peoria, Rockford and Springfield — which serve the state’s 3.5 million Catholics. Investigators substantiated child sexual abuse allegations against 451 clerics and religious brothers. The highest numbers were in Chicago, where there were 150 reported abusers, and Joliet, with 52 reported abusers, according to the report. Since some reported abusers were recorded in two dioceses, a total of 494 proven abusers were reported, according to the report.

The report reveals the names of 451 convicted child sex abusers and provides accounts and details of the abuses they committed while serving the Church. Some have only one victim, others dozens. The man who died in 2015 abused 36 children while serving in the Diocese of Davenport, Iowa, and in Joliet; before retiring in 2005, another abused two children in the Diocese of Peoria. Yet another priest raped a 10-year-old girl in his class, according to the report.

The depth and extent of the sexual abuse varied – as did the punishments they received, the report says. In many cases, allegations were reported and not acted upon, according to the report. In 1993, two survivors accused a priest in the Diocese of Chicago of abuse, but the review board did not recommend that the priest be punished, according to the report. Instead, the clergy had him watched and he was still allowed to meet with teenage girls, according to the report. The abuse continued and at least three other survivors reported abuse by the priest until 2002 – nearly a decade later – he was removed from the clergy, according to the report.

A priest accused of abusing numerous young boys was known to parish children as “Happy Hands”, according to the report, but he escaped punishment for years. Prosecutors have often refused to move the case forward – an assistant state’s attorney told Notre Dame des Neiges parishioners, “It was our decision not to subject the children to any legal process, as we believe that our goal can be achieved without doing so,” the report says. The priest moved from parish to parish after the charges against him began in 1990, but he did not leave the Catholic Church until 2008, according to the report. He was never punished for his alleged abuse, according to the report, and instead resides at “his cabin – the same residence where he had been accused so many times of abusing young boys”.

At least 1,997 survivors said they were abused by clergy in Illinois, according to the report. Survivors of sexual abuse shared their stories — which were key to the report’s investigation, the Illinois attorney general said — and many spoke candidly about the struggles they’ve faced since their abuse.

According to the report, nearly all of the survivors struggled with mental health issues, with some turning to alcohol, drug addiction and others suffering from anxiety and feelings of unworthiness. A survivor called ‘Jeffrey’ fell into ‘a deep depression because he felt he could not tell anyone what had been done to him’, the report reads, and worked on his mental health for 30 years. Some survivors struggled with suicidal thoughts, while others struggled with physical health and financial issues.

One survivor, Terry Neary, believes that the public naming of sex offenders is a “game changer” for survivors of child sexual abuse. Neary, who was abused by a priest, told investigators that a “public listing is an announcement made by the church to survivors that ‘we believe you'”.

In a lengthy statement Tuesday in response to the report, which also included a video, Cardinal Blase J. Cupich, Archbishop of Chicago, said that “on behalf of the Archdiocese, I apologize to all those who have been harmed by failure to properly prevent and respond to religious child sexual abuse Survivors will forever be in our prayers, and we are dedicated to eradicating this problem and healing victims.

Cupich noted that after reviewing the attorney general’s report, he had “concerns about the data that may be misunderstood or presented in a misleading manner.”

He wrote that the 451 proven assailants “have been reported to civil authorities, none have been disclosed, none have been ‘hidden in plain sight’ since at least 2002” and “no cleric with a single substantiated allegation against them has is stationed in the Archdiocese of Chicago.”

In his statement, Cupich also alleged that the report implied that “the church deserves further investigation because it is a trusted religious organization.”

“We believe that all children deserve protection, whether they are cared for by a religious or secular institution,” Cupich said. “It is neither right nor wise to focus solely on the Catholic Church, which has made the greatest progress in this area.”

Bishop Thomas John Paprocki of the Diocese of Springfield said they were “not aware of a single incident of clergy sexual abuse of a minor that has occurred in this diocese in nearly 20 years. “.

He also said the diocese “is fully committed to doing everything possible to prevent the abuse from happening again.”

Other dioceses — including Joliet, Peoria, Belleville and Rockford — listed lengthy statements and explanations on their websites in reaction to the report.

On May 18, ahead of its release, the six dioceses released a joint statement outlining their commitment to “enhancing the transparency and effectiveness of their policies.”

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ request for comment was not immediately returned.

Mike McDonnell, spokesperson for SNAP, a survivor network supporting victims of institutional sexual abuse, told CBS News, “This report makes it clear to us that no one knew more about the abuse, and no one has done less than these dioceses themselves.”

In their view, “the bishops lied,” said Larry Antonsen, who leads the network’s Chicago chapter, and “these numbers are both staggering and, sadly, likely understated.”

The organization said the same level of criminal behavior by clerics and cover-up by Church officials can be found across the country and they hope that “more attorneys general and local prosecutors across the country will have the courage to dig deeper and investigate the dioceses and Catholic institutions in their place.”

If you are a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, RAINN offers free, anonymous help 24 hours a day, 7 days a week through the National Sexual Assault Hotline, 800-656-HOPE and Information about mental health care resources and support is available through the National Alliance on Mental Illness’s hotline, 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET, or by emailing the organization at

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