An investigation by the Illinois state authorities has found that the Catholic Church withheld the names of at least 500 Catholic clergy members accused of sexually abusing children - way more than just the 185 “credible” offenders the state’s six dioceses had originally identified, The New York Times reported.
In a damning report made public on Wednesday (19 December), Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan came down heavily on the Catholic dioceses for conducting an unacceptably deficient investigation into the abuse of minors by priests.
“Clergy sexual abuse of minors in Illinois is significantly more extensive than the Illinois Dioceses previously reported,” the report stated.
The investigation concluded that the Catholic dioceses in Illinois are simply incapable of investigating themselves and “will not resolve the clergy sexual abuse crisis on their own.”
“It appears that the Illinois Dioceses have lost sight of both 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,” the report reads. “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.”
Chicago, the largest city in Illinois, has a huge Roman Catholic population with considerable political clout. Thirty-three per cent of residents in the Chicago area are Catholic, making it among the top-five most Catholic of American cities.
Meanwhile, the Chicago Cardinal Blase Cupich apologised in a statement for the Church’s failures and expressed sympathy for victims.
“I want to express again the profound regret of the whole church for our failures to address the scourge of clerical sexual abuse,” Cupich said. “It is the courage of the victim-survivors that has shed purifying light on this dark chapter in church history.”
Illinois opened its investigation after Pennsylvania’s horrifying grand jury report describing in graphic detail the abuse of over 1,000 children by 301 priests over the last about 70 years.
The Church has been struggling to explain and address thousands of allegations of abuse of minors and adult seminarians and their cover-up by Church leaders since the summer, when Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, former archbishop of Washington DC, resigned after accusations against him were found credible.