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Local

Illinois AG says names of 500 accused priests withheld

Illinois Attorney Gen. Lisa Madigan speaks during a news conference Aug. 21, 2014, in Chicago.
Illinois Attorney Gen. Lisa Madigan speaks during a news conference Aug. 21, 2014, in Chicago.

About 700 priests in Illinois have been accused of sexual abuse, according to a state attorney general report critical of how Catholic dioceses have handled the allegations.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s report on “preliminary findings” released Wednesday does not say how many of the allegations against 690 priests should be deemed credible or how far back the allegations go. But Madigan said the number of credible allegations probably exceeds the 185 already publicly disclosed by six Illinois dioceses.

Madigan said her office “found dozens of examples where the Illinois dioceses failed to adequately investigate an allegation of clergy abuse it received from a survivor.”

The Diocese of Rockford was not available for comment Wednesday. On Nov. 14, the diocese released a list including the names of 15 accused priests, with at least three of whom previously were assigned to churches in McHenry County.

“The preliminary stages of this investigation have already demonstrated that the Catholic Church cannot police itself,” Madigan said in the release. “Allegations of sexual abuse of minors, even if they stem from conduct that occurred many years ago, cannot be treated as internal personnel matters.” 

A release from Madigan said she and her office “have spoken or met with bishops, lawyers and diocesan representatives from all six dioceses in Illinois: the Archdiocese of Chicago, and the dioceses of Belleville, Joliet, Peoria, Rockford and Springfield. Madigan’s office also has reviewed thousands of pages of documents and files from each diocese, including diocesan procedures for receiving and investigating allegations of abuse.”

The Diocese of Joliet released a statement saying that it has not been informed by the attorney general that it “failed to investigate any allegation of abuse.”

The report does not differentiate between the Illinois dioceses except to identify which ones have published lists of priests deemed to have had credible allegations made against them. The names of 45 additional priests deemed to have been credibly accused have surfaced since the investigation started in September, which the report claims “are a direct result of the office’s investigation. With few exceptions, the dioceses have provided no adequate justification for failing to disclose these names before the office’s investigation.”

“Today’s news demonstrates the need for ongoing diligence in investigating crimes against children taking place within institutions that do not have a history of unilateral, proactive transparency,” Attorney General-elect Kwame Raoul said in a statement. “I am committed to continuing this investigation.”

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