Chris Lange, FISM News
An Illinois investigation into sexual abuse allegations against Catholic churches revealed that 451 clergy members and church leaders allegedly abused 1,997 children in the state between 1950 and 2019.
The findings, which were released on Tuesday, showed that the problem was far more extensive than the church had let on.
“Before this investigation, the Catholic dioceses of Illinois publicly listed only 103 substantiated child sex abusers,” State Attorney General Kwame Raoul wrote in the 696-page report. “By comparison, this report reveals names and detailed information of 451 Catholic clerics and religious brothers who abused at least 1,997 children across all of the dioceses of Illinois.”
Raoul said at a news briefing that although the statute of limitations had expired on many cases, he hoped nonetheless that the findings of the probe “will shine light both on those who violated their positions of power and trust to abuse innocent children, and on the men in church leadership who covered up that abuse,” the Associated Press reported.
“These perpetrators may never be held accountable in a court of law, but by naming them here, the intention is to provide a public accountability and a measure of healing to survivors who have long suffered in silence,” Raoul continued.
The five-year investigation included a review of more than 100,000 pages of diocesan documents and information provided by more than 600 witnesses.
DECADES OF ABUSE AND CONCEALMENT
The blistering report described a decades-long pattern of concealment on the part of Catholic church leaders who were slow to confront accused clergy and failed to notify parishioners of possible abusers in their congregations.
Cardinal Blase Cupich, archbishop of Chicago, acknowledged that the abuse was “repugnant” but said that the church had been overhauling its policies and had already implemented changes, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. He did not specify what those changes entailed.
“We have not studied the report in detail but have concerns about data that might be misunderstood or are presented in ways that could be misleading,” Cupich said in a written statement. He continued: “We think all children deserve to be protected, regardless of whether they are cared for by a religious or secular institution. It isn’t fair or wise to focus only on the Catholic church, which has made the greatest strides in this area.”
Cupich said that he hoped the findings would result in “a rallying cry to all adults to join in the work of safeguarding children, lest this moment be a lost opportunity,” adding, “I stand ready to continue to do my part.”
MORE THAN 100 ABUSE CLAIMS FILED AGAINST ONE PRIEST PRIOR TO EVENTUAL ARREST
A large part of the report was devoted to witness accounts of abuse. It also included a list of clergy in each diocese accused of child sexual abuse, including Father Daniel McCormack who was arrested in 2006 for abusing five boys in Chicago. McCormack was the subject of more than 100 abuse allegations that spanned decades prior to his arrest.
According to the report, the mother of one of McCormack’s victims said after his conviction that, had “Cardinal (Francis) George done the right thing, these other boys would not have been molested. (Instead), he just opened the door for (McCormack) to take advantage of other black children.”
RAOUL CALLS FOR MORE TRANSPARENCY
Raoul called for greater transparency on the part of church officials in a list of reform recommendations included in the report. In one example, he said that church leaders should disclose information about abusive clergy and provide instructions on parish websites on how to report suspected abuse.
He further recommended that all religious orders report “any allegation of child sex abuse by a religious order member to the diocese.” Should any order fail to comply with the recommendations, Raoul said its members should be “barred from ministering within the boundaries of the diocese.”
Chicago’s investigation is one of several led by government agencies into clergy sexual abuses. Findings from probes conducted in other states — including Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin — similarly point to multiple abuses and failures on the part of Catholic church leaders to hold perpetrators accountable.