National News

Nearly 2,000 Children Abused by Catholic Clergy Over Decades, Says Illinois AG report

Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul speaks as he releases a May 23, 2023 report revealing decades of abuse by Catholic clergy against almost 2,000 children. (OSV News Photo)

By Gina Christian

(OSV News) — Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul released a May 23 report revealing decades of abuse by Catholic clergy against almost 2,000 children.

The report, unveiled during a May 23 press conference and totaling almost 700 pages, concludes a multi-year investigation launched in 2018 into child sexual abuse by 451 clergy and religious brothers in all six Catholic dioceses in Illinois.

Prior to Raoul’s investigation, the Catholic Dioceses of Illinois publicly listed just 103 credibly accused abusers.

According to Raoul’s office, attorneys and investigators “reviewed more than 100,000 pages of documents held by the dioceses and received more than 600 confidential contacts from survivors through emails, letters, interviews and phone calls.”

“I was raised and confirmed in the Catholic Church and sent my children to Catholic schools. I believe the church does important work to support vulnerable populations,” said Raoul in a May 23 statement. “However, as with any presumably reputable institution, the Catholic Church must be held accountable when it betrays the public’s trust.”

He added that although “these perpetrators may never be held accountable in a court of law,” their naming in the report would “provide a public accounting and a measure of healing to survivors who have long suffered in silence.”

Chicago Cardinal Blase J. Cupich said in a statement that archdiocesan officials “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.”

Among what he said church officials “know to be true” is that the 451 clergy named in the report includes the priests already on the six diocesan websites. “ALL were reported to civil authorities, none were undisclosed, none were ‘hiding in plain sight’ since at least 2002.”

“We must think first of the survivors of sexual abuse who carry the burden of these crimes through their lives,” Cardinal Cupich said. “On behalf of the archdiocese, I apologize to all who have been harmed by the failure to prevent and properly respond to child sexual abuse by clerics. Survivors will forever be in our prayers, and we have devoted ourselves to rooting out this problem and providing healing to victims.”

“For more than 30 years, the Archdiocese of Chicago has been at the forefront of developing and improving policies and programs to address the scourge of child sexual abuse and to support survivors,” he said, adding, “I hope the attention drawn to the issue by the report will encourage those who work with minors to learn from our experience and take steps to protect all children from sexual abuse.”

In a May 23 statement, SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) called the report “stunning.”

SNAP also said the report’s release explained a May 19 press statement from all six of the state’s Catholic dioceses, describing the safe environment policies and procedures each has in place.

“With today’s news, we now know why those church leaders felt the need to remind parents and parishioners about these policies,” said SNAP, alleging “those policies are weak, vague, and rarely followed.”

Attorney Jeff Anderson, who has represented numerous clerical abuse survivors, said in a May 23 statement that the report was “the most survivor-centric, robust, and thorough (attorney general) report — a foundational exposé unearthing crimes of those who chose to abuse their positions of power.”

OSV News called the Illinois Catholic Conference asking for comment and was awaiting a response.