CHICAGO — Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said the six Catholic dioceses in Illinois have underreported the number of priests and clergy who have faced allegations of sexual abuse.
Preliminary findings from Madigan’s office show the dioceses in Peoria, Joliet, Belleville, Rockford and Springfield, and the Archdiocese of Chicago, have publicly identified 185 clergy members “credibly” accused of sexual abuse.
However, Madigan said the dioceses have received allegations of abuse about at least 500 additional priests and clergy members.
“Because I know that the Church has too often ignored survivors of clergy sexual assault, I want to share the initial findings from our work,” Madigan said. “While the findings are preliminary, they demonstrate the need for and importance of continuing this investigation.”
In many cases, Madigan said the dioceses haven’t investigated the allegations at all, or inadequately. In many cases, the church did not notify law enforcement or DCFS of the allegations, Madigan said. She said the most common reasons for not investigating are that the priest or clergy member is dead, or had already resigned when the abuse was first reported to the church.
“The preliminary stages of this investigation have already demonstrated that the Catholic Church cannot police itself,” Madigan said. “Allegations of sexual abuse of minors, even if they stem from conduct that occurred many years ago, cannot be treated as internal personnel matters.”
Madigan opened her investigation following the release of a grand jury report in Pennsylvania detailing the scope of clergy abuse there.
A lawsuit filed in October included two plaintiffs who said they were abused by priests within the Catholic Diocese of Peoria. Those plaintiffs claim Bishop Daniel Jenky and other church officials brushed off allegations against priests when they were brought forth. The church contests those allegations, saying they investigated the claims thoroughly.
In November, the Catholic Diocese of Peoria forced three retired priests to step down from ministry due to “credible allegations” of sexual abuse against a minor.