Illinois AG Releases Horrifying Preliminary Report into Clergy Sex Abuse
Today, Illinois’ attorney general has released a preliminary report into clergy sex abuse and cover-ups in Illinois. The details within the report will no doubt be shocking to the public, but sadly, sound all too familiar to us.
According to AG Lisa Madigan’s report, dioceses in Illinois have, for decades, kept hundreds of names of abusive priests secret . Despite telling the public that there have been, in total, 185 priests “credibly” accused of abuse, the AG's office concluded that there are many as 690. Making matters worse, when informed of allegations of abuse, the Illinois Dioceses have at best done token investigations and at worst outright ignored the accusations.
Ignoring allegations would be awful even if it only happened once, but AG Madigan’s report shows that Illinois Dioceses have ignored or minimized nearly ¾ of all allegations reported. And, when they do investigate, the AG makes the damning claim that “they frequently found reasons not to deem an allegation ‘credible.’”
At SNAP we have long taken issue with the term “credible” and this report is another example of why we find that term so troubling. Not only are the allegations made to church officials barely investigated, but when they are church officials actively look for reasons to dismiss those allegations. Compounding the issue is the fact that, when claims are investigated, they are done not by law enforcement but by church officials who are not trained to investigate crimes. Similarly, the threshold for what is and what is not “credible” changes from diocese to diocese, meaning there is no clarity, precision, or usefulness to the term.
This report also illustrates that the oft-touted “transparency” of church officials is anything but. Only when the Illinois AG office began investigating did Church officials acknowledge that they were aware of an additional 45 previously undisclosed clergy with "credible" allegations.
The findings of the IL AG shows exactly why we call for independent investigations by outside law enforcement professionals. When an allegation of abuse is made to a self-governing institution, they can ignore or minimize it. But when a crime is reported to police, the investigative process is altogether different.
While this report highlights the shocking and awful details of sex abuse cover-ups in Illinois, we are confident that similar techniques and minimizing is happening in dioceses throughout the country. We hope that every single state looks for creative ways to follow in the footsteps of Pennsylvania and Illinois in investigating clergy sex crimes and we also hope that the Federal Department of Justice is looking seriously into these crimes as well.
CONTACT: Zach Hiner, Executive Director (firstname.lastname@example.org, 517-974-9009)
(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)