Illinois accuses 500 more Catholic clergy of child sexual abuse | News | DW | 20.12.2018
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Illinois accuses 500 more Catholic clergy of child sexual abuse

The scale of clergy sexual abuse in the US state of Illinois is greater than the Catholic Church has recognized. Some 700 priests have been accused of child sexual abuse — the Church identified fewer than 200.

The Catholic Church in the US state of Illinois failed to properly investigate at least 500 priests accused of sexually abusing children, the Illinois attorney general said Wednesday.

The preliminary report issued by Attorney General Lisa Madigan reveals that the scope of sexual abuse accusations against the Catholic Church in Illinois is far greater than previously acknowledged.

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The six dioceses in Illinois had previously identified 185 clergy members credibly accused of sexually abusing children, but the attorney general found that in the case of an additional 500 members facing similar accusations the Church failed to properly investigate or did not investigate at all.

"By choosing not to thoroughly investigate allegations, the Catholic Church has failed in its moral obligation to provide survivors,  parishioners and the public a complete and accurate accounting of all sexually inappropriate behavior involving priests in Illinois," Madigan said in a statement. "The failure to investigate also means that the Catholic Church has never made an effort to determine whether the conduct of the accused priests was ignored or covered up by superiors."

It was unclear when the abuses occurred. Some of the cases date back decades and include accused predator priests who are now deceased.

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Cardinal Blase Cupich, archbishop of Chicago, expressed regret but said that the Church had taken steps to investigate sexual abuse and support those who suffered at the hands of the clergy.

"I want to express again the profound regret of the whole church for our failures to address the scourge of clerical sexual abuse. It is the courage of victim-survivors that has shed purifying light on this dark chapter in church history," he said in a statement.

"There can be no doubt about the constant need to strengthen our culture of healing, protection, and accountability. While the vast majority of abuses took place decades ago, many victim-survivors continue to live with this unimaginable pain," he continued.

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The investigation represents a new blow to the Church as it struggles to respond to worldwide allegations of clergy child sexual abuse over several decades.

In August, a Pennsylvania grand jury report claimed that more than 300 priests abused at least 1,000 children over seven decades in that state.

In October, US federal authorities launched an investigation into clergy abuse.

The sexual scandals prompted Pope Francis to call US bishops to meet near Chicago next month to agree on how to respond.

cw/sms (AFP, AP, dpa)

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