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 from all six Catholic dioceses in Illinois. Prior to Raoul’s investigation, the Catholic dioceses of Illinois publicly listed just 103 credibly accused abusers.
“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.”
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.” He also said, “We must think first of the survivors of sexual abuse who carry the burden of these crimes through their lives,” and apologized to victims on behalf of the archdiocese.
From The New York Times:
The report adds 149 names to lists of child sex abusers whom the dioceses themselves had publicly identified before or during the investigation. That brings the total number of identified abusers to 451, the report says. None of them are known to be in active ministry, and at least 330 are believed to have died.
The 149 new names are mostly religious brothers, who are accountable primarily to independent religious orders rather than to local dioceses and bishops.
Investigators interviewed hundreds of victims, and matched their accounts with diocesan records and other interviews to substantiate their accounts. Investigators also reviewed more than 100,000 pages of files held by the dioceses, and interviewed church leaders and their representatives.
One case among many documented in the report involves Thomas Francis Kelly, a priest who abused more than 15 boys ranging in age from 11 to 17 in several parishes in the 1960s and 1970s. Three victims contacted the attorney general’s investigators, including one who described being singled out by Father Kelly as an 11-year-old altar server. The priest invited the boy to drive-in movies and to spend the night in the rectory, where the priest offered him beer. The boy awoke in the night to find Father Kelly performing oral sex on him, the report says.
The archdiocese moved the priest from parish to parish, the attorney general’s report notes. The priest died in 1990.
The effects of the clerical sex abuse crisis have rippled through the Catholic Church in the United States for decades, and burst into public view 20 years ago when the The Boston Globe documented a sprawling cover-up of abuse in church settings.
The Catholic Conference of Illinois estimates that Catholics make up about 27 percent of the state’s population, above the national average.
In the early 1990s, Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago led a pioneering commission on sexual abuse in church settings, establishing a board made up mainly of lay people to evaluate accusations of abuse against clergy members. But the report also documents how the Chicago archdiocese sometimes failed to act on its own recommendations.
Cardinal Blase J. Cupich, Archbishop of Chicago, said in a statement Tuesday that the archdiocese “has been at the forefront of developing and improving policies and programs to address the scourge of child sexual abuse and to support survivors.”
Mike McDonnell, a spokesman for SNAP, an advocacy group for victims of clerical sexual abuse, said, “This report clearly tells us that no one knew more about abuse, and no one did less about it, than these dioceses themselves.”.