Health & Spirit

Lawyers say they will release names of Catholic clergy in hundreds of Illinois cases of sexual abuse

Elyssa Cherney, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Religious News

CHICAGO -- In the weeks since Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan released a scathing report faulting the Illinois dioceses for failing to investigate hundreds of allegations of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy, a daunting question has lingered on the minds of parishioners: Which priests were accused?

Unlike a sweeping grand jury report in Pennsylvania that identified more than 300 predator priests this summer, the preliminary report released Dec. 19 by Madigan did not name the clergy members implicated in her probe or note the diocese where they worked.

Now, as U.S. bishops gather in suburban Mundelein for a spiritual retreat in response to the sex abuse scandal, two attorneys say they will expose the offenders known to them through handling hundreds of Illinois cases over nearly two decades.

The lawyers, Jeff Anderson and Marc Pearlman, announced Thursday their intentions to publish a report in early February that includes the names and photos of every clergy member accused by the 300 survivors they have represented. Anderson called Madigan's report comprehensive and helpful, but said he needed to do his part to release the information he possesses.

"What isn't private and what needs to be known and made public is the identities of every one of those offenders, many of whom are still out in the community," Anderson said at a news conference in a downtown Chicago hotel as he stood between a man and a woman he is representing as abuse victims in a lawsuit against the state's six Catholic dioceses.

The majority of their cases on behalf of survivors were settled out of court over the years, Pearlman said. In about two dozen of those cases, the perpetrators have not been publicly named by the church, though confidentiality agreements do not prevent disclosing their identities. Some cases involve allegations that arose after clergy members had died, Pearlman said.

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Madigan's bombshell report found such cases were among several other categories of allegations that the dioceses did not investigate. In addition, dioceses often did not investigate cases when a victim wanted to remain anonymous, only one complainant came forward or the clergy member previously resigned, Madigan found. The dioceses also failed to investigate clergy who were visiting priests from a religious order, referring the allegations instead to the order, the report said.

In all, Madigan's investigation portrayed sexual abuse of minors by clergy members as significantly more common than the church had previously disclosed. She alleged the dioceses had received 690 allegations of sexual abuse but publicly identified only 185 clergy as credibly accused.

A spokeswoman for Madigan's office said Thursday that she could not comment on the extent to which the list from Anderson and Pearlman may coincide with the 500 priests in the Madigan report.

The spokeswoman also said there was no update regarding whether Madigan will publish the names of clergy members implicated in her report before leaving office on Jan. 14.


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