Illinois attorney general Lisa Madigan released a report on Wednesday that detailed her office’s preliminary findings on clerical sex abuse across the state. Madigan says Catholic dioceses in Illinois have failed to release the names of at least 500 members of the clergy who have been made known to the dioceses as having been accused of sexually abusing children.
“By choosing not to thoroughly investigate allegations,” Madigan said in a statement announcing the findings, “the Catholic Church has failed in its moral obligation to provide survivors, parishioners and the public a complete and accurate accounting of all sexually inappropriate behavior involving priests in Illinois.”
“The failure to investigate,” Madigan continued, “also means that the Catholic Church has never made an effort to determine whether the conduct of the accused priests was ignored or covered up by superiors.”
According to the report, only the dioceses of Chicago and Juliet published lists of clergy credibly accused of abuse of minors prior to the investigation. The report indicates that “even now, these lists, for the most part, remain difficult to locate on the Illinois Dioceses’ websites.”
In a statement, Cardinal Blase Cupich, archbishop of Chicago, said he wanted “to express again the profound regret of the whole church for our failures to address the scourge of clerical sexual abuse. It is the courage of victim-survivors that has shed purifying light on this dark chapter in church history.”
The diocesan statement also states that “[t]he nature of the [attorney general’s] report makes it difficult to discern which generalized findings apply to the Archdiocese of Chicago.”
Cupich, whose defense of Pope Francis on the sexual abuse crisis at the annual American Bishops’ Meeting in Baltimore in November made him a central figure in this issue, is one of those appointed to the organizing group for the Vatican’s February meeting on the global clerical sex abuse crisis. Cupich has also been reported to have worked with the disgraced Cardinal Donald Wuerl – who was implicated in abuse cover-up in the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report and who claims to have been ignorant of the predatory activity of his predecessor, former cardinal Theodore McCarrick – to propose an approach to clerical abuse that would move away from proposed lay oversight to a more institutionalized approach through metropolitan archbishops.
“The preliminary stages of this investigation have already demonstrated that the Catholic Church cannot police itself,” Madigan stated. “Allegations of sexual abuse of minors, even if they stem from conduct that occurred many years ago, cannot be treated as internal personnel matters.”