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Illinois Catholic Church Didn't Disclose Hundreds of Abuse Cases, New AG Finding Shows

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan
M. Spencer Green
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan says Illinois' six Roman Catholic dioceses failed to disclose at least 500 sexual abuse cases involving priests.

That’s one of the first findings the office has released so far in its ongoing investigation of the dioceses.

In an interview last week, Madigan said one of the goals of the investigation is to uncover both the extent of sexual abuse incidents in Illinois’ Catholic Church and whether church officials tried to cover them up.

“For decades, the Catholic Church was hiding these, in many ways, discrediting the victims and their families,” she said.

It’s unclear at the moment which dioceses the priests involved in those cases were practicing in, and whether they’re still members of the clergy.

Since the investigation began in August, the six dioceses have altogether released the names of about 180 priests who had “credible” abuse allegations against them. But documents obtained by the attorney general’s office show the church did not notify the police or the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services about the hundreds of other cases.

Though some of the priests involved in those incidents have since died, Madigan says prosecution is still on the table.

“Obviously there is a statute of limitations issue, sometimes with individual clergy members," she explained "But, as our investigation continues, we will certainly take legal action if it’s warranted.”

Separately, the attorney general's office says it's received 300 other abuse allegations via a clergy sexual abuse hotline that was launched in August.

Attorney General-elect Kwame Raoul released a statement Wednesday, saying he's "committed to continuing this investigation" when he takes office in January.

In another statement, Bishop Thomas Paprocki of the Catholic Diocese of Springfield said he’s cooperating with the investigation, and called the non-disclosures a “virtuous intent to protect the faithful from scandal.”

Sam is a Public Affairs Reporting intern for spring 2018, working out the NPR Illinois Statehouse bureau.