It’s clear that the Catholic Church will never stop sexual abusing children. The Attorney General’s office in Illinois has published a report regarding instances of child sexual abuse committed by Catholic clergy. The investigation revealed that nearly 2,000 children in the state have been victims of such abuse. The report, spanning 696 pages, includes an introduction by Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul, who stated that the Catholic Church’s decisions and policies over several decades have allowed child sex abusers to remain hidden, often in plain sight. Due to expired statutes of limitations, many survivors will not be able to seek legal justice. However, disclosing the names of the abusers aims to provide public accountability and some measure of healing to the long-suffering survivors.
This is not the first time such revelations have surfaced. In 2018, former Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan released a report documenting abuse within the church, which prompted Raoul to continue the investigation. Likewise, in April, the Maryland Attorney General’s office published an interim report exposing child sex abuse in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, listing 146 clergy abusers from the 1940s to 2002, with over 600 known victims. The Baltimore report uncovered a history of widespread and persistent abuse by priests and other church personnel, as well as repeated dismissal or cover-up of these crimes by the Catholic Church hierarchy. Additionally, a Pennsylvania grand jury report in 2018 revealed that over 70 years, 300 Catholic priests in Pennsylvania had abused more than 1,000 children, and the Boston Archdiocese maintains a webpage listing over 100 clergy members who sexually abused children.
In the Illinois investigation, attorneys and investigators reviewed thousands of church files, examining over 100,000 pages of documents. They conducted interviews with diocesan leadership and representatives and received over 600 confidential contacts from victims via email, letters, voicemail, and phone calls. Prior to this investigation, only 103 substantiated child sex abusers were publicly listed by the Catholic dioceses of Illinois. In contrast, this report reveals the names and detailed information of 451 Catholic clerics and religious brothers who abused at least 1,997 children across all the dioceses in Illinois. The report is divided into the six dioceses of Illinois: the Archdiocese of Chicago, and the dioceses of Belleville, Joliet, Peoria, Rockford, and Springfield. Through the investigation and disclosures by the church, additional clergy members were identified as substantiated child sex abusers.
The impact of the abuse on the lives of the victims has been profound. They have reported drug and alcohol addiction, suicide attempts, and incarceration. Many suffer from depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, insomnia, anxiety, trust issues, and feelings of guilt. Some victims stated that the abuse prevented them from reaching their full potential, and they closely monitored the movements of their abusers as they were transferred from one parish to another, continuing their abusive behavior. Some victims even tracked their abusers until their retirement or death. However, victims expressed gratitude that their stories will finally be revealed and acknowledged.
There is evidence of a longstanding cover-up of abuse within the Catholic Church, but in recent years, the church has shown support for disclosing the names of abusers. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has pledged to prioritize healing and reconciliation for survivors of child sex abuse by clergy. Publicly disclosing abusers is considered an important part of the healing process, as acknowledged by Cardinal Blase Cupich of the Archdiocese of Chicago. Although the church is not legally obligated to make these disclosures, it has become a common practice across the country.
The report includes recommendations for the Illinois dioceses in five key areas: survivor care and communications, investigations and determinations, disclosure and transparency, mediation and compensation, and religious orders.
This has been going on since the beginning of the Catholic Church! We must pray for the victims and ask God to hold the pedophiles accountable.
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