Decades of Child Sexual Abuse by Catholic Clergy in Illinois Detailed in New Report by State Attorney General

The report is the latest by a state detailing years of child sexual abuse by Catholic priests

The Illinois state Attorney General has released a new report which outlines decades of problems with child sex abuse by Catholic clergy in the state, identifying more than 450 priests and other individuals associated with the Catholic Church that have been accused of abusing nearly 2,000 children since 1950.

The Illinois Catholic clergy child sex abuse report was released on Tuesday by Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul, announcing the results of an investigation launched in 2018.

The findings come amid growing evidence of widespread abuse and misconduct by Catholic clergy, and only a few weeks after a similar report on Maryland child sexual abuse in the Baltimore Archdiocese was released.

Raoul noted in a press release that before the investigation, the six Catholic dioceses of Illinois publicly disclosed a list of 103 substantiated child sex abuses. The new report raises that number to 451 clergy and religious brothers who are believed to have abused 1,997 children across the state over the last seven decades.

“Decades of Catholic leadership decisions and policies have allowed known child sex abuses to hide, often in plain sight,” Raoul said in the press release. “And because the statute of limitations has frequently expired, many survivors of child sex abuse at the hands of Catholic clerics will never see justice in a legal sense. It is my hope that this report will shine light both on those who violated their positions of power and trust to abuse innocent children.”

The report calls on the Illinois dioceses to improve survivor care and communications, how it investigates and determines abuses happened, its disclosure and transparency policies, as well as to improve efforts of mediation and compensation.

On May 18, the Illinois Catholic Dioceses released a statement in response to the report, detailing their current processes for handling allegations of sexual abuse by minors by members of the clergy.

“Over the past four years, the Illinois dioceses have worked with the Office of the Illinois Attorney General to improve the transparency and effectiveness of their policies,” the dioceses said in the statement. “Prompted by the Attorney General’s investigation, the dioceses have critically reviewed current policies and implemented certain recommended changes to their existing reporting to the public to further increase transparency.”

Statutes of Limitations Prevent Prosecutions and Civil Lawsuits

While a growing number of states have recently passed laws which temporarily or permanently set aside statute of limitation laws to allow abuse survivors to file civil suits against abusers. However, there are no such laws or proposed legislation to do so in Illinois.

After a two year window in the New York child sex abuse statute of limitations was opened in 2020, tens of thousands of claims were brought against the Boy Scouts, Catholic Church and other entitles throughout the state. The Buffalo Diocese alone had at least 230 Catholic priests accused of sexually abusing minors, with eight specific priests accounting for more than 1,000 lawsuits filed in that part of the state.

While statute of limitations laws have also been enacted in a number of other states, including New Jersey, California and Louisiana, other states are still debating similar bills that would allow survivors to hold abusers and entities that enabled their conduct accountable.

Most recently, Maryland passed a new law completely abolishing the statute of limitations for civil lawsuits against accused child sexual abusers following the release of a similar report in that state. The Catholic dioceses of Maryland are expected to challenge the constitutionality of the law in state court, but hundreds of survivors are already coming forward to pursue claims and hold the church and leadership accountable for decades of covering up credible claims.

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