CHICAGO (ChurchMilitant.com) - The attorney general of Illinois is announcing at least 500 additional cases of priestly sex abuse the Catholic Church has never reported, bringing the total number of accused clergy in the six dioceses of Illinois to nearly 700.
The findings were made in a preliminary report released Wednesday by Lisa Madigan, as part of her continuing investigation into the Catholic Church.
"The preliminary stages of this investigation have already demonstrated that the Catholic Church cannot police itself," Madigan said in a press release. "Allegations of sexual abuse of minors, even if they stem from conduct that occurred many years ago, cannot be treated as internal personnel matters."
The announcement comes two weeks after Madigan said the number of priest abusers "is more extensive than the Church previously has disclosed to the public." At that time, Chicago had released a list of 10 more names of accused clergy, Peoria had disclosed three more names and Rockford 11.
But the number of accused priests is significantly higher than the 185 total reported by all six Illinois dioceses so far.
"Madigan's office has found that there are at least another 500 clergy that the Illinois dioceses have received allegations about," the press release states. "The investigation has revealed that allegations frequently have not been adequately investigated by the dioceses or not investigated at all. In many cases, the Church failed to notify law enforcement authorities or Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) of allegations of child sexual abuse."
Additionally, dioceses "frequently found reasons not to deem an allegation 'credible' or 'substantiated.'"
According to the preliminary report, the Illinois attorney general's office has received more than 300 calls on its sex abuse hotline over the past three months from victims and their family members and friends.
"Survivors informed the Office that, at various times over the years, they reported the abuse they suffered to one of the Illinois Dioceses," the report states. "Most shared that the diocese they contacted failed to take action against the clergy they accused of sexual abuse, or failed to follow up when they requested information about the accused."
"In the Office's review of clergy files, a pattern emerged where the dioceses frequently failed to 'substantiate' an allegation when it came from only one survivor," the report continues, "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 report goes on to criticize the Illinois dioceses for lack of transparency and failure to report multiple cases of sex abuse to law enforcement.
"[T]he Office has reviewed enough information to conclude that the Illinois Dioceses will not resolve the clergy sexual abuse crisis on their own," the report notes.
"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 the press release. "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 investigation was launched shortly after publication of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report on Aug. 14, and encompasses the dioceses of Chicago, Joliet, Peoria, Belleville, Springfield and Rockville.