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Roasry beads draped across church liturgy on a wooden table

After several years of investigation into the Catholic church in six dioceses across Illinois, the office of Attorney General Kwame Raul recently issued a press release detailing its findings concerning child sex abuse by Catholic clergy.

This investigation began in 2018 after a Pennsylvania grand jury found that more than 300 Catholic clerics had abused more than 1,000 children in the state over the prior 70 years.

Illinois Catholic Child Sex Abuse Investigation Follows Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report

After the Pennsylvania report was released, Cardinal Blasé J. Cupich of the Archdiocese of Chicago and other Catholic leaders in the state expressed their “shock, grief, and shame” about the revelations of abuse.

Meanwhile, Attorney General Lisa Madigan started the investigation into her state’s dioceses. Attorney General Raoul continued the investigation when he took office in January 2019.

Investigators examined thousands of diocese files, reviewing more than 100,000 pages of documents from six dioceses across Illinois:

  1. Archdiocese of Chicago
  2. Diocese of Belleville
  3. Diocese of Joliet
  4. Diocese of Peoria
  5. Diocese of Rockford
  6. Diocese of Springfield

They also interviewed diocesan leadership and representatives and received more than 600 confidential contacts from survivors through emails, letters, voicemail messages, interviews, and phone calls.

At the time of the investigation, two of the six Illinois Dioceses (in Chicago and Joliet) had posted lists of substantiated Catholic cleric child sex abusers on their websites. Between the two, they listed 103 abusers. Within months of the investigation’s opening, the other four dioceses also posted lists, while Chicago and Joliet added more names to their lists.

By 2018, an additional 81 clerics had been listed as substantiated child sex abusers, bringing the total number to 184.

Investigators Uncover Nearly 2,000 Victims of Child Sex Abuse

After much information gathering, analysis, victim reports, and more, the Attorney General’s investigation added those abusers listed by the Illinois dioceses to the ones the investigators found through additional sources. That brought the total number of publicly disclosed substantiated child sex abusers to 451.

The investigation also revealed claims by at least 1,997 survivors who were sexually abused by these Catholic leaders—numbers even higher than those reported by the Pennsylvania grand jury.

“Decades of Catholic leadership decisions and policies have allowed known child sex abusers to hide, often in plain sight,” wrote Attorney General Raoul. “And because the statute of limitations has frequently expired, many survivors of child sex abuse at the hands of Catholic clerics will never see justice in a legal sense.”

The report contains the Attorney General’s recommendations to the Illinois Dioceses regarding their future handling of child sex abuse allegations.

In a statement released in response to the report, the Illinois Catholic Dioceses noted that they “stand ready to collaborate with all agencies and organizations in Illinois that care for and educate children in establishing effective policies and practices for child safety, confident we can learn from each other.”

Other States Have Passed Laws Allowing Victims to Sue Abusers

In the wake of other similar reports of child sex abuse in the Catholic Church and the Boy Scouts of America organization, several states have passed laws temporarily suspending the statute of limitation laws. These have allowed victims of child sex abuse to file civil suits against their abusers and/or the organizations that supported them, no matter how long ago the abuse occurred.

So far, the state of Illinois has passed no such law.

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