The Catholic Church in Illinois, which includes the Chicago Archdiocese, may have hidden hundreds of allegations of sexual misconduct made against priests and other members of the clergy, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said in a press conference late Wednesday.
The shocking revelations are the result of a mere “preliminary investigation,” Madigan told reporters, according to WGN.
“Madigan opened an investigation into the issue in Illinois in August after a grand jury report revealed widespread clergy abuse in Pennsylvania,” the news site continued. “The attorney general has been reviewing thousands of pages of internal documents released from each of Illinois’ six diocese as part of its investigation.”
Each diocese in Illinois has released a list of “credibly” accused members of the clergy, Madigan said, but those lists only include around 185 names, total, and don’t reference other priests who were accused of misconduct but were not “adequately investigated.” Each individual diocese, including Chicago, has its own definition of an “adequate investigation,” and there are no uniform rules for handling claims of sexual misconduct or reporting allegations to law enforcement.
“Based on the preliminary review of the dioceses’ files, Madigan’s office has found that there are at least another 500 clergy that the Illinois dioceses have received allegations about,” Madigan added.
The news comes on the heels of a separate report issued by the Midwest Province of Jesuits that claims at least 65 Jesuit brothers and priests across 12 states have been “credibly accused” of sexual misconduct, including 18 priests who operated within the Chicago archdiocese. “Half a dozen” of those priests were teachers at a Chicago-area prep school.
According to the report, one of those priests, Fr. Donald McGuire, was moved around several times over the course of four decades before being finally defrocked in 2007 — only after being convicted of bringing a minor across state lines for the purpose of having sexual contact.
Madigan added Wednesday that many of the underreported claims came from religious orders like the Jesuits, who often govern themselves. A forthcoming investigation, the attorney general’s office added, will include probes into these religious orders.
Chicago’s Cardinal Blase Cupich was left embarrassed by the report, as evidenced by a statement issued by the Archdiocese late Wednesday.
“I want to express again the profound regret of the whole church for our failures to address the scourge of clerical sexual abuse,” he said, but quickly added that “the nature of the report makes it difficult to discern which generalized findings apply to the Archdiocese of Chicago,” according to The Washington Post. The Chicago Archdiocese also sent an email to registered parishioners Thursday morning, reaffirming the Church’s commitment to rooting out and exposing sex abuse.
Madigan says the Illinois Attorney General’s probe will continue, even though she is leaving office in January: “The Catholic church, they should have never been in a position to police themselves.”