CHICAGO (AP) — Illinois’ attorney general on Tuesday will discuss his office’s more than four-year investigation into the alleged sexual abuse of children by Catholic clergy in the state going back decades — a probe launched by his predecessor after she found the church’s own investigation to be seriously lacking.
Kwame Raoul continued Lisa Madigan’s investigation after he took over from her as the state’s top law enforcement official in 2019. Madigan issued a blistering preliminary report on the state’s investigation in 2018 just before she left office, saying Catholic dioceses in Illinois had not released the names of at least 500 clergy who had been accused of sexually abusing children.
The preliminary report found that the church’s six dioceses had done a woefully inadequate job of investigating allegations, and in some cases didn’t investigate them at all or notify the state’s child welfare agency. The abuse claims dated back decades and were made against some priests who had since died, but the preliminary report didn’t include certain key details such as when allegations were made.
The Madigan report didn’t accuse the dioceses of withholding the names of clergy who the church deemed had been “credibly” accused or against whom abuse claims had been “substantiated” — the church’s own investigation standards. However, it did point out that the overall list of accused clergy was far longer than the church had made public.
According to the Madigan report, the dioceses deemed only 26% of the allegations they received to be “credible,” while either not investigating or deeming remaining 74% to be unsubstantiated.
Madigan’s office said the problems went beyond a lack of effort by the church, and that in some cases, the church sought to work against the accusers.
Illinois church leaders expressed regret at the time about the abuse, but they pointed to steps they had taken to address what has become an international crisis.
Madigan said in 2018 that notifying authorities is critical and pointed to instances in which dioceses used personal information about people to discredit them and their accusations.
“The preliminary stages of this investigation have already demonstrated that the Catholic Church cannot police itself,” she said.
Similar government-led investigations detailing reports of clergy sexual abuse and church leaders’ failure to hold perpetrators accountable have rocked archdioceses in other states, including Pennsylvania and Maryland.