Criminal Justice

More than 500 Catholic priests accused of sexually abusing minors in Illinois have never been publicly identified, according to a preliminary report released on Wednesday by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.

The report said the church has identified 185 clergy who faced credible allegations of sexual abuse in the state, but approximately 690 clergy have been accused, report the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times, the Washington Post and the New York Times.

The report said there were dozens of instances in which the six dioceses in Illinois failed to conduct proper investigations. Sometimes the dioceses referred priest-abuse allegations to a priest’s religious order rather than conducting their own allegations, the report said. Dioceses also opted not to investigate clergy who had resigned, left the country or died. They also declined to investigate when there was a pending lawsuit or criminal investigation.

When there was an investigation, the dioceses frequently deemed an allegation not credible when it was made by only one person, the report said. Dioceses also found reasons to discredit accusers by focusing on their personal lives.

In addition, dioceses used different burdens of proof to determine whether a clergy member committed sexual abuse. They included “reasonable cause to suspect,” “sufficient evidence,” “sufficient possibility that an incident occurred,”and “more probably true than not.”

Madigan’s office opened the investigation in August after a Pennsylvania grand jury reported that leaders of the Catholic church in the state had covered up credible allegations of abuse against more than 300 priests. The six dioceses in Illinois voluntarily provided documents to Madigan’s office for the investigation.

Illinois is among more than a dozen states that are investigating the handling of clergy abuse cases.

Madigan said the report was released now because the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is expected to meet in suburban Chicago in January to discuss sexual abuse by priests.