Illinois clergy sex abuse investigation uncovers hundreds more cases in Catholic church
CHICAGO (CBS) -- A nearly five-year investigation by Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul's office has uncovered hundreds more cases of child sex abuse by Catholic clergy members than first reported by church officials.
A nearly 700-page report released Tuesday features detailed narrative accounts of child sex abuse committed by Catholic clerics.
Before Raoul's investigation began in 2018, the six Catholic dioceses in Illinois listed only 103 substantiated child sex abusers. The attorney general's investigation into child sex abuse by members of the Catholic clergy found an additional 348 clerics who abused kids between 1950 and 2019.
Of the 451 abusers publicly identified in the report, Raoul said 330 of them are deceased.
Raoul said, because of many of its good deeds, the Catholic church became a pillar of trust, and it is that trust that was broken over and over.
The attorney general's office looked at more than 100,000 pages of documents held by the state's six Catholic dioceses, and received more than 600 confidential contacts from survivors between 1950 and 2019.
The report found, in all six dioceses in Illinois, there were 451 Catholic clerics and religious brothers who abused nearly 2,000 children during that time. Raoul's probe was spurred by the 2018 findings of a Pennsylvania grand jury that more than 300 Catholic clergy members in that state had abused more than 1,000 children over the prior 70 years.
In the Chicago area, the Diocese of Joliet lists 52 abusers. The state report identified 69.
The Archdiocese of Chicago lists 150 abusers, but the report named 275.
Raoul said, from day one, this investigation was about giving voice to victims.
"I would like to express my sincere gratitude to each and every survivor, and to others who contacted my office, for trusting us with their deeply personal experiences," he said.
Raoul said the investigation took countless hours over the past 4 ½ years.
To dissuade anyone from thinking he had an axe to grind, the attorney general applauded the Catholic church for their good works, and also said he was born and raised in the church. Raoul added his mother was a "faithful practicing Catholic for the entirety of her life."
In a statement, Cardinal Blase Cupich said the Chicago Catholic Archdiocese has not had a chance to review the full report, but said church officials "have concerns about data that might be misunderstood or are presented in ways that could be misleading."
While Cupich did not elaborate on those concerns, the archdiocese noted all 451 priests named in the report are already listed on an archdiocese website identifying priests with substantiated allegations of sex abuse, and said "No cleric with even one substantiated allegation against him is in ministry in the Archdiocese of Chicago."
"We must think first of the survivors of sexual abuse who carry the burden of these crimes through their lives. On behalf of the archdiocese, I apologize to all who have been harmed by the failure to prevent and properly respond to child sexual abuse by clerics. Survivors will forever be in our prayers, and we have devoted ourselves to rooting out this problem and providing healing to victims," Cupich said.
Still, Raoul said decades of church leadership decisions and policies "have allowed known child sex abusers to hide, often in plain sight."
CBS 2 directly asked Cupich to respond to the allegation.
"Yes, I think in the past that's true," he said. "But ... we've had a policy over the past 30 years where, in fact, we've turned a corner on that."
As for the discrepancies between the church's reported numbers of abusers and the attorney general report's numbers, Cupich said there were "no undisclosed name, no coverup, no hiding whatsoever."
Cupich said there were five duplicates. Of the 120 that aren't on the list, five were ordained from another diocese and reportedly serving in the archdiocese. The other 115 are order clerics or lay brothers, and the diocese doesn't have access to any of their records.
"We don't have the freedom that the state does to go in and take the files of a group," Cupich said. "And so we don't put them on our list because we can't substantiate them."
One of those clerics who appears on the state's list, but not on the archdiocese's list is Robert Noel Brouillette. In 2000, he was convicted of 10 counts of child pornography in Will County. Seattle added him to its list in 2006 and Phoenix also reported his name in 2020.
It's unclear why Brouillette would have been left off the Archdiocese of Chicago's list. Cupich said they will review the entire list and the recommendations from the Attorney General's Office.
"This is an issue of the past. We need to make sure we bring healing but we have to bow to our past and not be bound by it," he said.
As for criminal charges for some of the cases involving clergy who are still alive, Raoul said his office referred some cases to prosecutors but they are not aware of any new criminal charges at this time.
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