An Illinois Attorney General (AG) launched an investigation into allegations of children being sexually abused by clergy from 1950-2019. The findings revealed that Catholic clergy abused 1,997 children in this nearly 70-year time frame. It was discovered that 451 Catholic clergy members had been guilty of the allegations, but for many of these cases the statute of limitations had expired, so none of the abusers in these cases would see justice.
The AG office responsible for the investigation hopes that their report would bring to light the clergy that committed these atrocities upon children and would force the Catholic Church leadership who covered up the abuse over almost 70 years to provide recompense to the victims.
In the report, it is said that the leaders within the Catholic church dragged their feet in acknowledgement of the extent of the abuse. The report also states that the church leadership was very slow to confront the abusers, and that they didn’t inform parishioners of the possible abuse going on within church leadership.
This investigation began in 2018 and was continued after a change of administration. The AG office reported that 25 staff members meticulously reviewed more than 100,000 pages of documents obtained from the Office of the Diocese, these same staff members had over 600 interactions with contacts regarding the abuse. The current AG gave credit to the accusers for coming forward with their allegations so that the investigation could begin and even continue over two administrations.
In the report, many victims reported thoughts of suicide after the abuse, while many others reported turning to alcohol or drugs to stave off anxiety and feelings of worthlessness. Victims of the abuse referred to years and in some cases decades of problems such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), addictions, alcoholism, depression, guilt, suicidal thoughts and ideations, feelings of guilt and anxiety, insomnia, issues with relationships, trust issues, side effects associated with sexual intimacy and more.
One accuser claimed that after a priest abused him when he was a kid, in his adulthood he had problems in his career, including an inability to hold jobs, lack of financial well-being, associating his trauma as a child to unethical work practices that led to his quitting, being fired, or leaving every job he has ever had.
The report had unquestionable facts dredged up that Catholic hierarchy in every Illinois Diocese kept the pedophiles under wraps, reporting only a little over 100 abusers when the number of abusers was over 400. The AG office cited that according to the accusers, the actual numbers of these cases may be even higher, but a staggering amount was confirmed in the report.
The child sexual abuse cases reported in the Illinois investigation reflects similar reports by other government-led investigations in states like Pennsylvania and Maryland. In all these investigations, the offices of the Archdioceses are being accused of failure to hold the perpetrators accountable for their actions.
Reports like this are hoped to be a rallying cry for other victims of child sexual abuse. It is believed that these actions will begin new conversations that will lead to healing among victims and awareness among communities that have failed to acknowledge or comprehend how widespread cases like these are among the Catholic Church. When leadership that should be trusted fails to precipitate justice, these kinds of statewide investigations may assist community members in communication of important information regarding the growing battle against child sexual abuse on a global scale.
In Illinois, the Catholic Conference claims that 3.5 million Catholics make up some 27% of the population of Illinois. According to the conference, the Catholic Church of Illinois consists of 949 parishes, within which are 260 religious brothers, 1,312 deacons and 2,215 priests.