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Hundreds more Illinois Catholic clergy abused children than originally reported, AG says

Angie Leventis Lourgos, Jake Sheridan | Chicago Tribune

Hundreds more Catholic clerics abused children in Illinois than were previously reported by church leaders, according to a scathing 700-page report released Tuesday by the Illinois Attorney General’s office following a roughly four-year investigation.

State investigators revealed the names and details of 451 Catholic priests and religious brothers who abused at least 1,997 children across all dioceses in Illinois. Prior to the report, Catholic leaders in Illinois had only publicly listed 103 substantiated child sex abusers, according to the Attorney General’s office.

“These perpetrators may never be held accountable in a court of law, but by naming them here, the intention is to provide a public accounting and a measure of healing to survivors who have long suffered in silence,” Attorney General Kwame Raoul said in a news release.

The release added that the survivors’ accounts “demonstrate a troubling pattern of the church failing to support survivors, ignoring or covering up reports of abuse, and survivors being revictimized by the church when they came forward to report being abused.”

In response to the report, Chicago Cardinal Blase Cupich in a written statement said no clergy member “with even one substantiated allegation against him is in ministry in the Archdiocese of Chicago.”

“When we learn of an allegation of abuse, we act promptly, report it to civil authorities, remove the accused from ministry and investigate the allegation,” the statement said.

While archdiocesan officials hadn’t had time to review the report in detail, officials there “have concerns about data that might be misunderstood or are presented in ways that could be misleading,” the statement said, but did not give any specific concerns about information in the report or clarify what data the comment referenced.

“It is therefore important that we state what we know to be true,” the statement said. “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.”

The statement added that the Archdiocese of Chicago first adopted policies and programs to “address the scourge of child sexual abuse and to support survivors” in 1992, and those protocols have been used as “a model for organizations and professionals dealing with this difficult issue.”

“The archdiocese has, to our knowledge, reported all allegations of child sexual abuse by clergy to civil authorities, including the oldest allegations,” the statement said. “We report these allegations regardless of whether the accused is alive or dead, a diocesan priest, an extern priest from another diocese or a religious order priest.”

The report was “somewhat of a vindication” and the beginning of accountability, said Larry Antonsen, a Chicago leader of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

“I think it’s way underreported,” he added. “I think there’s a whole lot more than that. Maybe double. Maybe triple.”

Antonsen, 76, was molested by a priest who taught St. Rita of Cascia High School on the Southwest Side, where Antonsen was then a sophomore, he said. They had taken a day trip to Milwaukee, and the priest decided they would stay in a motel because it was too late to return home.

Like in his own abuse experience, Antonsen expects statutes of limitation will prevent legal action against many of the priests newly named as child sexual abusers. Still, he hopes the report brings more abuse to light and leads to accountability — not just for abusers, but for church leaders who hid the abuse, he said.

“They flat out lied about it. I mean flat out lied,” Antonsen said of the church leaders.

He shared hope that people would listen to the stories of survivors with open minds. The attorney general’s online report includes extensive narratives detailing the abuse survivors suffered.

When Antonsen was sexually abused, his relationships were hurt and he stopped doing things he loved to do. He and the around 20 people he regularly discusses personal priest abuse stories with through SNAP have never gotten apologies, help or contact from the Archdiocese of Chicago, he said.

“It’s ruined people’s lives. And for us, there’s no recourse,” Antonsen said. “And they can’t really give any of that back. They can’t.”

Read the full report below in English.

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Source: Orange County Register

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