Illinois AG finds dioceses failed to publicly identify hundreds of priests accused of abuse
ILLINOIS, December 20, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – As the Catholic Church in the United States continues to reel from allegations of decades of clergy sexual abuse and cover-up, the Illinois Attorney General has just released a report claiming that the state’s dioceses have grossly underreported to the public the number of priests accused of sexual predation.
While Illinois’ six dioceses have publicly identified 185 priests, Attorney General (AG) Lisa Madigan’s initial investigation reports there have actually been 690 accused priests.
The huge discrepancy is indicative of what the AG identifies as a failure of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) to live up to its 2005 promise to make “survivor well-being” paramount in dealing with alleged clergy sexual abuse.
Madigan explained that she was at first motivated to launch the investigation after Pennsylvania’s Attorney general published a bombshell grand jury report which chronicled decades of clergy sexual abuse against mostly seminarians and adolescent males.
While the sweeping Pennsylvania report––two years in the making––consisted of 900 pages and identified 300 priests, the 9 page Illinois report is preliminary in nature, and marks only the beginning of the state’s investigation.
Since “the Church has too often ignored survivors of clergy sexual assault, I want to share the initial findings from our work,” Madigan said. “While the findings are preliminary, they demonstrate the need for and importance of continuing this investigation.”
The AG said she wanted to publish her team’s initial findings at this time in order to provide a critical document for discussion in advance of the USCCB’s week-long retreat planned at Chicago Archdiocese’s Mundelein Seminary in January.
“The preliminary stages of this investigation have already demonstrated that the Catholic Church cannot police itself,” Madigan said. “Allegations of sexual abuse of minors, even if they stem from conduct that occurred many years ago, cannot be treated as internal personnel matters.”
“By choosing not to thoroughly investigate allegations, the Catholic Church has failed in its moral obligation to provide survivors, parishioners and the public a complete and accurate accounting of all sexually inappropriate behavior involving priests in Illinois,” said Madigan in a stunning rebuke. “The failure to investigate also means that the Catholic Church has never made an effort to determine whether the conduct of the accused priests was ignored or covered up by superiors.”
“The Catholic church needs to prioritize survivors,” Madigan said in a telephone interview with the Chicago Tribune. “They can’t continue to prioritize criminal clergy or prioritize the preservation of their assets. They have to follow their own charter and heal the survivors.”
In addition to minimizing the scope of clergy sexual abuse of minors, the AG report claims that dioceses often disregarded survivors’allegations by either not investigating them, or finding reasons not to substantiate the allegations.
The AG report found that the Illinois dioceses deemed 26% of the reports of alleged abuse as “credible” allegations, meaning 74% of the allegations were either not investigated, or were investigated but not substantiated by the Illinois Dioceses. Reasons for not investigating included the death or resignation of the accused clergy member or because the priest was a member of an order and not a diocesan priest.
Other rationales included a lawsuit was filed; the survivor wanted to remain anonymous; a criminal investigation was opened; or the clergy member left the country. Yet the AG report claims that in many of these cases, “information and evidence related to the alleged abuse was readily available and easily confirmed.”
Shockingly, the AG’s preliminary investigation found “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.”
The AG report also zeroes in on the fact that the Illinois dioceses’ response to clergy sexual abuse is not uniform across the state and is often inadequate. For example, some use the term “substantiated,” others use the term “credible,” and others use both. Differing terminology is confusing, making it difficult for the general public to draw conclusions, further frustrating the goals of transparency and accountability.
Perhaps the most damning conclusion of the AG report is that the “dioceses’ investigatory processes often do not realize the Charter’s goal to prioritize survivor healing, particularly when conflicts of interest are present with respect to the Dioceses’ own interests and liabilities.
McCarrick's victim of abuse speaks out
James Grein, who entered the national spotlight via The New York Times this summer, telling his story of sexual abuse by the man who baptized him, former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, told LifeSiteNews that he has been in touch with a senior member of the Illinois Attorney General’s staff.
Grein, who was sexually abused in Chicago, understands the depth of criminality in that state.
“I know there are deep troubles in Chicago,” said Grein, who believes that Chicago Cardinal Blase Cupich is “playing games,” supplying only information specifically asked for by the AG’s office. “They need to know that somebody else knows.”
“I was abused in Chicago by McCarrick and two other prominent people in the Church,” revealed Grein. “They can’t hide anymore.”
While the Chicago Archdiocese has not reached out to him, Grein said that he will soon meet with officials of the Archdiocese of New York as they initiate a canonical procedure against McCarrick.
The Illinois Attorney General’s office has quickly concluded that the state’s six dioceses are not capable of satisfactorily resolving the clergy abuse crisis on their own:
It appears that the Illinois Dioceses have lost sight of both the key tenet of the Charter and the most obvious human need as a result of these abhorrent acts of abuse: the healing and reconciliation of survivors. Long after legal remedies have expired, the Catholic Church has the ability and moral responsibility to survivors to offer support and services, and to take swift action to remove abusive clergy. The actions taken by the Catholic Church should always be survivor-focused and with the goal of holding abusers accountable in a transparent manner.
Law enforcement officials from forty-five states have now indicated they have or soon will follow in the footsteps of the Pennsylvania and Illinois AGs and launch investigations into alleged priest predation and cover up in their states.