A sweeping investigation into Illinois’ Catholic Dioceses found that the Church’s hierarchy severely underreported the number of children abused by clergy members over the past seven decades.
The investigation, detailed in a 696-page report released by the Office of the Illinois Attorney General earlier this week, delivers damning evidence about the systemic failures of all six Illinois Roman Catholic Dioceses in properly handling reports of child sexual abuse committed by its priests and clergy members and protecting children from known abusers. It’s also inspiring survivors to step forward.
Legal Alert: In light of the recent AG report, Levy Konigsberg is reviewing a growing number of claims from survivors who were sexually abused as minors by Catholic clergy across Illinois. Learn more about Illinois Catholic Church sexual abuse lawsuits or contact us for a FREE and confidential consultation.
Survivors Praised in Helping Bolster Report
The report – which is available on the Illinois Attorney General’s website – is the result of a multi-year investigation in which state attorneys conducted interviews and reviews of countless diocesan officials and documents from all six of Illinois’ Catholic Dioceses
It provides tremendous details about the prevalence of child sexual abuse within Illinois’ Catholic Churches and schools dating back to 1950 and includes what are often explicit narrative accounts drafted with the help of survivors who courageously shared their experiences being abused by clerics.
As noted in a statement from Illinois AG Kwame Raoul, the report would not have been possible without the survivors who met with investigators and the hundreds of others who made confidential contact with his office.
Report Shows Vast Difference in Number of Actual Survivors & Abusers vs. Those Reported by Church
At the heart of the AG’s report is the glaring discrepancy between the number of abusers publicly acknowledged by the Church and the number of abusers and survivors identified by investigators.
In total, investigators found that over 450 Catholic clergy in Illinois sexually abused nearly 2,000 children between 1950 and 2019.
Here are some details about the differences:
- At the time the investigation was launched in 2018, only two of the six Illinois Dioceses had public lists of substantiated cleric child sex abusers on their websites. Those lists included just 103 abusers (68 by the Archdiocese of Chicago and 35 by the Diocese of Joliet).
- In the early months of the investigation, the remaining four dioceses posted public lists of abusers and the two dioceses with existing lists added more, bringing the total of named abusers to 184 by December 2018.
- As the investigation unfolded and at the urging of the state AG, the Illinois Dioceses added more names of clerics and non-ordained religious brothers to their public lists. Upon final count, the dioceses had publicly named 320 abusers.
- As a result of its investigation, the AG’s Office identified 160 additional clergy members (149, when accounting for clergy who served in more than one diocese) who were substantiated by Catholic sources as known abusers, but who were never named publicly.
As noted by Raoul and other advocates, the Church’s reluctance to publicly name known abusers, its piecemeal additions of names that came only after considerable pressure from the state, and the large number of additional unnamed clergy identified by the state was further evidence of the Church’s systemic failures and its willful concealment of abuse.
According to investigators, the Church’s hierarchy:
- Routinely failed to adequately investigate accusations of child sexual abuse.
- In some cases, failed to conduct any type of investigation into abuse.
- Failed to report known or suspected abuse to authorities.
- Engaged in practices to cover-up abuse and protect accused priests, including assigning priests to different parishes following allegations of misconduct.
AG Report Gives New Hope to Survivors Seeking Justice
The Illinois AG’s report is a jarring reminder of the Catholic Church’s uncomfortable legacy of sexual abuse. In addition to shining a spotlight on the problems within Illinois’ Dioceses, it also provides hope to survivors that even powerful institutions can be held to account.
At Levy Konigsberg, our attorneys have extensive experience litigating sexual abuse lawsuits on behalf of survivors, including sex abuse claims against the Catholic Church. We commend the many survivors whose deeply personal contributions helped make this report possible and know it will be of great importance for survivors who seek justice in civil claims against the Church.
If you have questions about a potential claim, call (800) 315-3806 or contact our firm for a FREE and confidential consultation.