A sex abuse survivors network wants attorneys general in other states to follow Illinois’ lead in independently investigating the Catholic Church and holding it accountable failing to report allegations of child sex abuse.
Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office found 500 additional credible allegations of child sex abuse against Catholic clergy in Illinois. That’s on top of the more than 180 credible allegations that Illinois’ six dioceses had already publicly revealed.
“While the findings are preliminary, they demonstrate the need for and importance of continuing this investigation,” Madigan said.
Zach Hiner, the executive director of SNAP, or the Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests, said he’s angry, but not surprised.
“It’s just all too common and as has been seen throughout the country and over the years and I think that is a perfect example of why these investigations are so important and need to continue in every state across the country,” Hiner said.
Madigan said the cases she’s unveiled from reviewing records provided by the church show many abuse allegations were barely investigated. Others appeared to have been dismissed without investigation.
That’s more of the same, Hiner said.
“Up to three-quarters of the allegations that have been reported to church officials had barely been investigated, if investigated at all,” Hiner said.
The Springfield diocese said in a statement that it worked with Madigan’s office to provide documents dating back to 1923.
“The Attorney General’s inquiry has prompted us to comb through decades’ old paper files, reviewing cases that involve clergy and lay people most of us have never met, and many of whom are deceased,” Springfield’s Bishop Thomas John Paprocki said in the statement. “Revisiting the pain caused to victims of abuse has motivated us to redouble our commitments to the reforms undertaken many years ago and to sustain our vigilance.”
Hiner said one reform is clear: The church must report abuse allegations.
“Any time they receive any allegation the very first thing that they have to do is to report it to child protective services, to police, to prosecutors, to every single law enforcement official that they can and then divorce themselves from the process entirely,” Hiner said.
Madigan said her investigation continues and she’ll have a report ready for the U.S. Conference of Bishops, which is to meet in Mundelein Jan. 2-8.
“Having this out in advance of the meeting in Mundelein will be hopefully another sign to officials at the Vatican that they need to take action on this,” Hiner said. “That there is a clear zeitgeist in the country here around this issue and people are looking to get to the bottom of it. It’s basically: Act now, or don’t.”
Hiner said he knows survivors of abuse who’ve been outraged by the stories they’ve heard while others who have been wronged by the church keep their faith because it’s important to them.
“It’s one of those deeply personal issues that just speaks to why I think this particular crisis is so outrageous,” Hiner said. “These are institutes that people look to for guidance about their lives and is a place that people look to for love and answers and instead find hurt and betrayal.”
Illinois Attorney General-elect Kwame Raoul said he plans to continue the investigation when he takes office.