‘Fight for 500’ to uncover priests accused of sexual abuse in Illinois

CHICAGO — It is one is the largest initiatives yet to find and expose the identities of hundreds of Illinois priests, bishops and other clergy members accused of sexual abuse.

Last month, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan accused the Catholic Church of dramatically underreporting the allegations of clergy sex abuse in the state.

Her investigators say they found at least 500 accusations against priests and clergy, compared to the 185 cases the church says it knows about.

Survivors of priest sex abuse stood with their attorneys as the launched a statewide initiative called, “Fight for 500.”

Their goal is to identify and provide information on the more than 500 priests they say are being hidden or protected by the Catholic Bishops in Illinois.

Survivors detailed their abuse and said they’re doing this because so many are still suffering in silence.

"We don't know if they're deceased or if they're alive," said abuse victim Cindy Yesko. "We don't know if they're in active ministry or retired. We don't know their status. And when we don't know the truth and it's not transparent, you can't protect the children."

"It is these Catholic Bishops, that remain the fugitives from the truth, that continue to hide the secrets," said attorney Jeff Anderson. "And if anyone expects them to do the right thing, history has shown they don't have the courage to do it or the will to do it."

Attorneys amended their lawsuit as more survivors have come forward.

They set a deadline of Feb. 11 to release a report to attempt to identify every single offender accused of sexual abuse.