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Illinois Attorney General Reports 451 Clerics are Accused of Abusing 1,997 Children
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According to a report released by the Illinois Attorney General's Office, 451 Catholic clerics and religious brothers have been accused of sexually abusing 1,997 victims within the Catholic dioceses of the state over a span of 70 years. The report, published on May 23, provides a comprehensive list of allegations of "substantiated child sex abuse" compiled with the assistance of all six dioceses in Illinois. The allegations cover the period from 1950 to 2019.
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451 Catholic clerics and religious brothers have been accused of sexually abusing 1,997 victims within the Catholic dioceses of the state.
The Attorney General's Office investigators meticulously reviewed over 100,000 pages of documents provided by the dioceses, including records related to abuse allegations and the policies and procedures employed by the Church to address such allegations. They also conducted interviews with representatives from the dioceses as well as numerous victims who came forward with their allegations.
While the report acknowledges the full cooperation of each diocese during the investigation and recognizes the reforms that have been implemented, Attorney General Kwame Raoul expressed strong criticism of the Church's leadership in the past. He stated that decades of decisions and policies by Catholic leaders allowed known child sex abusers to hide, often in plain sight. Additionally, due to the expiration of the statute of limitations in many cases, survivors of child sex abuse by Catholic clerics may never achieve legal justice.
Attorney General Raoul hopes that this report will shed light on both the abusers who exploited their positions of power and trust to harm innocent children and the Church leaders who covered up these abuses. While the perpetrators may not face legal consequences, the intention is to provide public accountability and some measure of healing to the survivors who have suffered in silence for so long.
The report reveals that a total of 275 abusers were identified in the Archdiocese of Chicago, 69 in the Diocese of Juliet, 51 in the Diocese of Peoria, 43 in the Diocese of Belleville, 32 in the Diocese of Springfield, and 24 in the Diocese of Rockford. It is important to note that the actual number of accused individuals is higher than 451 since some priests served in multiple dioceses.
The report also states that the final number disclosed by the attorney general's report exceeds the previously disclosed numbers by the Catholic dioceses in Illinois. Prior to this investigation, only the Archdiocese of Chicago and the Diocese of Joliet had published lists of substantiated sexual abuse on their websites, which named 103 alleged abusers. During the course of the investigation, the dioceses disclosed 334 clerics and religious brothers accused of abusing minors. However, this figure still falls short of the attorney general's report of 451.
Cardinal Blase Cupich, the archbishop of the Chicago archdiocese, expressed concerns about the report, highlighting potential misunderstandings and misleading data. He explained that the report included allegations against priests and religious brothers who were under the supervision of religious orders rather than the dioceses themselves. Cardinal Cupich clarified that the 451 names disclosed encompass both diocesan and religious order priests and include those already listed on the websites of Illinois' six dioceses.
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The dioceses do provide lists of religious priests and brothers who have had allegations substantiated by their respective orders. The remaining undisclosed names (149) are primarily religious order members who are not listed on the dioceses' websites as they report to and are supervised by their respective orders, according to Cardinal Cupich.
In response to the report, Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield noted that the decline in abuse allegations suggests that the prevention measures put in place have been effective. He stated that there has been no reported incident of sexual abuse of a minor by clergy in his diocese for nearly two decades.
The Diocese of Peoria similarly stated that, to the best of their knowledge, no priest with a substantiated allegation is currently in ministry or has not been reported to the authorities.
Bishop Paprocki emphasized that the report serves as a reminder for Catholics to remain vigilant in guarding against any future threat of abuse. He acknowledged the shameful and disgraceful sins committed by some clergy against innocent victims and expressed his commitment to preventing such abuse from happening again, even though he cannot undo the damage caused in the past.
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