This week, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan reported that more than 500 cases of child sexual abuse were swept under the rug by the six Roman Catholic dioceses across the state. Earlier, the Church reported 185 members of the clergy who had “credible allegations” leveled against them. However, according to AG Madigan's report, the real number is 690.
In a press release, she said, “Because I know that the Church has too often ignored survivors of clergy sexual assault, I want to share the initial findings from our work." She added, “While the findings are preliminary, they demonstrate the need for and importance of continuing this investigation.”
This news comes in the wake of a similar report from a grand jury in Pennsylvania, which revealed that over 300 pedophile priests had molested and abused as many as 1000 young children and teens over a seven-year period. Similar investigations are going on in several other states, including Kentucky, Missouri, Texas, and New Mexico. Recently, the Archdiocese of Chicago paid out $4.45 million to settle three lawsuits naming a former priest and convicted sex offender. Since then, the diocese has added names of 10 additional clergy to an online list of known pedophiles whose cases have been “substantiated by administrative review.”
The scandal has spread throughout the world, with investigations being carried out in several E.U. and Latin American countries as well as Australia, Chile, and India. It has even reached into the Pope's own inner circle. One cardinal was recently convicted for the abuse of two choirboys in 1996 by a court in Melbourne, while another faces charges in Santiago for failing to report pedophile priests during his tenure as archbishop of that city.
Madigan's current investigation has concluded that “Clergy sexual abuse of minors in Illinois is significantly more extensive than the Illinois Dioceses previously reported.” However, it does not provide any information about how many of the accusations are credible. Proving some of them could pose a serious challenge, as some of these cases go back as far as the 1960s and 70s. Furthermore, investigators have found that terminology found in Church documents can vary, which can “muddy the waters” in an investigation, making it difficult to determine whether or not a particular allegation is credible.
According to statistics, about half of the clergy who have been found to be pedophiles were in their mid-30s at the time of their offense. Contrary to common belief, very few of these pedophile priests were themselves abused as children, and fewer than 10 percent have had substance abuse issues or were under the influence of drugs or alcohol when the abuse occurred. According to a 2004 report issued by John Jay College of Criminal Justice, over half of pedophile priests are one-time offenders. However, out of 11,000 incidents reviewed in the John Jay Report, approximately 3000 – more than 27 percent – were accused of multiple offenses.
Those statistics provide some indication of just how widespread the problem has been. As the Illinois investigation continues, AG Madigan expects the number of allegations to rise. In a telephone interview with the Chicago Times, Madigan said, “These survivors...are calling us, recognizing that the criminal justice system may not be one where they will get relief, but they are seeking a measure of justice... a very large part of that is the church taking their allegations seriously, investigating them, acknowledging the crimes that took place, and publicly disclosing the names of the individuals who committed those crimes.”