- By Mike Wendling
- Report from Chicago
Hundreds of Catholic priests and religious leaders in the US state of Illinois have been named in a new report detailing clergy sex abuse.
The state’s top prosecutor said 451 clergy in Illinois had sexually abused 1,997 children since 1950.
The church had only recognized 103 individual attackers before the investigation began in 2018.
Almost all survivors interviewed had mental health issues after being abused, according to the report.
Several US states launched Catholic sex abuse investigations after a 2018 Pennsylvania grand jury report found that 300 priests abused more than 1,000 children over a 70-year period.
The nearly 700-page report released Tuesday by Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul includes dozens of harrowing stories of rape and sexual abuse, and details how the allegations were ignored and the attackers transferred from one church to another.
The Archbishop of Chicago said he had not studied the new report in detail, but took issue with how the statistics were presented, saying “it is neither right nor wise to focus solely on the ‘Catholic Church”.
In a statement, Cardinal Blase J Cupich apologized to survivors and promised the church would root out the abusers and continue to investigate the allegations.
“I am personally committed to applying the highest level of vigilance to these efforts and to further strengthening our safeguards against abuse,” he said.
Much of the report is devoted to individual accounts of sexual abuse and lists of clergy accused of child sexual abuse.
A Chicago priest, Father Daniel McCormack, has been called “one of Illinois’ most infamous child abusers.”
Complaints against McCormack date back to his period of training as a priest in the late 1980s. Church officials later admitted that he should have been fired from a seminary and never allowed to become a priest. .
Instead, McCormack was placed in several parishes and held teaching and coaching positions in several predominantly African-American neighborhoods on Chicago’s West Side throughout the 1990s and 2000s.
After numerous complaints and two arrests, he pleaded guilty to abusing five young boys and was sentenced to five years in prison in 2007.
The report also includes testimonies from survivors.
One survivor summed up the church’s response to his reports of abuse saying, “They had a chance to fix things, but they got it all wrong.”
Victim advocacy group Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (Snap) said the report demonstrated that church policies were “weak, vague and rarely followed”.
The group called for new national and local investigations, renaming of all church and school buildings that were named after the attackers, and memorials to honor the survivors.
“It’s a vindication of people who have been hurt, survivors who have been ignored and lied to,” Snap Chicago frontman Larry Antonsen said. “I hope this gives other survivors the courage to stand up and tell their stories.”