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Illinois Abuse Report Reveals Church Hid Accusations Against 500 Priests

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Joshua Gill Religion Reporter

A state attorney general’s investigation into the Illinois Catholic Church found Illinois dioceses concealed sex abuse allegations against at least 500 clergy members.

The Illinois Catholic Church previously listed 185 accused priests, 45 of whom were added to their list after Attorney General Lisa Madigan began her office’s investigation in August. Madigan’s preliminary report on the investigation revealed that list to be woefully short, as the total number of priests thus far known to have been accused of sexual abuse in six Illinois dioceses to 690. (RELATED: Former Archbishop Welcomes Investigation Of Abuse Claims Against Him)

Madigan began the investigation after the release of Pennsylvania’s grand jury report on clerical sex abuse, which revealed more than 300 predator priests statewide. The Illinois attorney general suspected the church might have behaved similarly in her state with regard to covering up abuse allegations and protecting accused priests. The investigation proved those suspicions had merit.

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 04: Illinois Attorney General, Lisa Madigan speaks about a crackdown on deceptive and abusive debt collection practices during a news conference at the FTC headquarters November 4, 2015 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, DC – NOVEMBER 04: Illinois Attorney General, Lisa Madigan speaks about a crackdown on deceptive and abusive debt collection practices during a news conference at the FTC headquarters November 4, 2015 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

“One of the things we’ve seen is that the church really took any opportunity it thought it could not to investigate,” Madigan told NPR.

The preliminary report also revealed, in many cases of sexual abuse allegations, Illinois dioceses either failed to adequately investigate or failed to investigate altogether.

“The preliminary stages of this investigation have already demonstrated that the Catholic Church cannot police itself,” Madigan said in a press 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.”

Of the abuse allegations received, the six dioceses investigated “deemed twenty-six percent as ‘credible’ allegations, meaning seventy-four percent of the allegations were either not investigated, or were investigated but not substantiated,” according to the report.

Cardinal Blase Cupich, archbishop of Chicago, and representatives of the Diocese of Joliet responded to the preliminary report by noting that it does not distinguish between the dioceses investigated. Both Cupich and Joliet representatives defended their respective dioceses efforts to respond to abuse allegations.

Madigan said the investigation is not yet complete and will continue. Her office has requested additional information from Illinois dioceses.

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