Parishioners pass by a portraiture of Rev. Michael Pfleger after a Sunday church service at St. Sabina Catholic Church in Chicago on March 7, 2021, when Pfleger was facing sexual abuse allegations. (AP Photo/Shafkat Anowar)

Illinois AG accuses hundreds of Catholic priests of child sex abuse over decades

The report acknowledges that many victims will never get legal justice for their abuse.

Parishioners pass by a portraiture of Rev. Michael Pfleger after a Sunday church service at St. Sabina Catholic Church in Chicago on March 7, 2021, when Pfleger was facing sexual abuse allegations. (AP Photo/Shafkat Anowar)

CHICAGO (CN) — The Illinois Attorney General’s Office released a report on Tuesday detailing decades of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy.

The 696-page document is the product of a five-year investigation into alleged sex crimes by Catholic clergy, which began in 2018 under former Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan – adopted daughter of indicted former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan – and continued under current Attorney General Kwame Raoul.

It names over 450 priests and lay ministers across Illinois’ six Catholic dioceses who together have allegedly sexually abused almost 2,000 children since the 1940s.

The AG’s office claims this is more than four times the number of clergy the Illinois dioceses reported of their own volition.

“Before this investigation, the Catholic dioceses of Illinois publicly listed only 103 substantiated child sex abusers. By comparison, this report reveals names and detailed information of 451Catholic clerics and religious brothers who abused at least 1,997 children across all of the dioceses in Illinois,” the report states.

The Archdiocese of Chicago, largest of Illinois’ Catholic dioceses, did not respond to a request to confirm this claim. However, Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich disputed in his own statement the report’s allegation that “decades of Catholic leadership decisions and policies have allowed known child sex abusers to hide, often in plain sight.”

“All [451 named clergy] were reported to civil authorities, none were undisclosed, none were ‘hiding in plain sight’ since at least 2002,” the archbishop said. He also claimed that all six dioceses have reported all sexual abuse allegations against clergy, regardless of credibility, to civil authorities since 2002.

The AG report rebuts that investigators only arrived at the 451 figure by continually pressuring Catholic leaders to disclose offending clergy. It states that prior to 2018, only the Archdiocese of Chicago and the Diocese of Joliet maintained lists of disclosed child sex abusers on their websites, and that it took a month of investigation before the other four dioceses followed suit.

On its website, the Archdiocese of Chicago currently lists about 160 priests and lay clergy with substantiated sexual abuse allegations, including extern clergy originating from out-of-state dioceses.

The report further claims that 149 of the abusers it lists have not yet been publicly disclosed by the dioceses, despite the allegations against them being substantiated by internal Catholic sources.

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