Illinois’ top prosecutor issued a scathing report on Wednesday that suggests Catholic dioceses in the state are still covering up the full scope of the priest abuse crisis by failing to publicly name 500 clergy who faced allegations.
Attorney General Lisa Madigan said her findings show the dioceses took any opportunity it could not to investigate their priests and that the church “failed in its moral obligation.”
After Madigan launched her investigation in August, the church admitted it was aware of 45 members of the clergy who they believe preyed on children but whose names were never made public, she said.
“With few exceptions, the dioceses have provided no adequate justification for failing to disclose these names before the Office’s investigation,” Madigan wrote in the blistering status report.
In addition, while Illinois dioceses have named 185 clergy with “credible” accusations against them, Madigan discovered they had actually received allegations against 690 over the years.
That may mean that the church did not consider those claims credible—but Madigan isn’t buying that they’re all innocent. She said there were dozens of cases where the diocese’s investigation was simply shoddy.
“The Illinois Dioceses often disregarded survivors’ allegations by either not investigating the allegations, or finding reasons not to substantiate the allegations,” the report said.
“When the Illinois Dioceses investigated an allegation, they frequently found reasons not to deem an allegation ‘credible’ or ‘substantiated,’” it said.
‘“In the Office’s review of clergy files, a pattern emerged where the dioceses frequently failed to ‘substantiate’ an allegation when it came from only one survivor, even when the dioceses had reason to believe that survivor and reason to investigate further. The dioceses also often found reasons to discredit survivors’ stories of abuse by focusing on the survivors’ personal lives.”
Madigan’s investigation is not over and the report did not include specific examples, and the Archdiocese of Chicago released a statement saying that “the nature of the report makes it difficult to discern which generalized findings apply” to its files.
The archdiocese and several other dioceses also touted their efforts to investigate and report allegations of sexual abuse. The Diocese of Peoria said it had “fully cooperated with the Attorney General’s requests throughout this process.” The Diocese of Joliet said it “has received no formal or informal indication from the Attorney General that we failed to adequately investigate any allegation of abuse and/or report it to authorities.”
Illinois is one of 15 attorneys general who launched probes and demanded church files after a probe by the Pennsylvania AG resulted in an explosive report in the summer.
The Pennsylvania report sent shockwaves all the way to the Vatican, with Pope Francis coming under fire for not taking a harder line. The Illinois report will only ratchet up the pressure on the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops to take action.
SNAP, a network of abuse survivors, called on more states to investigate the church’s handling of allegations.
“While this report highlights the shocking and awful details of sex abuse cover-ups in Illinois, we are confident that similar techniques and minimizing is happening in dioceses throughout the country,” it said in a statement.
“We hope that every single state looks for creative ways to follow in the footsteps of Pennsylvania and Illinois in investigating clergy sex crimes and we also hope that the Federal Department of Justice is looking seriously into these crimes as well.”