CHICAGO — Attorney General Lisa Madigan said there could be as many as 500 more clergy members accused of sexually abusing children in Illinois than the Catholic Church has admitted publicly, according to “preliminary” investigation findings released Wednesday.
Madigan opened an investigation into the issue in Illinois in August after a grand jury report revealed widespread clergy abuse in Pennsylvania. The attorney general has been reviewing thousands of pages of internal documents released from each of Illinois’ six diocese as part of its investigation.
In a statement released Wednesday, Madigan said that while the church has admitted publicly to 185 clergy members accused of abuse, the issue could be much more widespread. Such a wide discrepancy, Madigan said, shows the church “cannot police itself.”
“Allegations of sexual abuse of minors, even if they stem from conduct that occurred many years ago, cannot be treated as internal personnel matters,” Madigan said in a statement.
Each of the diocese have released their own lists of clergy members “credibly” accused of sexual abuse. While the Chicago archdiocese says it has been publishing such names since 2006, four of the diocese only did so after the investigation began, Madigan said.
“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,” the Attorney General’s Office said in a statement.
Investigators came to the number 500 based on cases that were not “adequately investigated” or where law enforcement was never notified, according to the statement.
Cardinal Blase Cupich, head of the Chicago archdiocese, expressed “profound regret” over abuses while pointing to ways the church has been working to address it in the Chicago area. Cupich said they’ve been taking on the issue since the early 90s, and all allegations of sexual abuse have been shared with civil authorities since 2002, even if they are not all made public.
“When we learn of an allegation of abuse we act promptly, report it to civil authorities, remove the accused from ministry and investigate the allegation,” Cupich said.
At the onset of the investigation, Madigan launched a Clergy Abuse Hotline (1-888-414-7678) and email for anyone to use to report allegations of sexual abuse by clergy. Madigan’s office said it has received over 300 communications so far.
Madigan did not specify if certain diocese or areas of the state have more unreported cases of clergy sexual abuse than others.