It doesn’t stop with the church.
Attorney General Kwame Raoul Tuesday disclosed results of a multiyear investigation into allegations of sexual abuse brought against Catholic church leadership. When the state review started in 2018, church officials named 103 known abusers. On Tuesday Raoul said investigators documented credible allegations against 451 clergy involving 1,997 child victims from 1950 through 2019.
For thick-skinned readers, more is available at clergyreport.illinoisattorneygeneral.gov. The new information adds to a growing, almost unfathomable mountain of data chronicling this institution’s staggering history, in Illinois and indeed around the world, a stark, brutal reminder of the disconnect between beatitudes proclaimed from the pulpit and conduct hidden behind closed doors.
All this crime falling under the umbrella of “the Catholic Church” or sorted amongst Illinois’ six dioceses certainly sets it apart from one-off abusers, both in terms of the sheer scale of numbers and the context of the size of the establishment and specific, administrative choices that continued rather than curtailed. But this one institution, and even its individual operations, are far from the only environments where abuse is possible and plausible without safeguards.
My religious denomination isn’t free of leadership who break laws – from sexual predators to fiscal impropriety and beyond – nor is it easy to find a public school district without a single documented incident of staff members crossing any variety of lines. Scouting, youth sports, internship programs, private employers and teen workers … the list is virtually endless, and sadly many readers can fill in the blanks with their own personal experience.
“The new information adds to a growing, almost unfathomable mountain of data chronicling this institution’s staggering history, in Illinois and indeed around the world, a stark, brutal reminder of the disconnect between beatitudes proclaimed from the pulpit and conduct hidden behind closed doors.”— Scott T. Holland
So what do we do? From a government standpoint: More inquests. Strengthening preventive sex education. Consistent updates to mandatory reporting laws (the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network keeps a nationwide database at apps.rainn.org/policy). Adequately maintain telephone (800-252-2873) and online (childabuse.illinois.gov) resources for initiating investigations.
For too long governments let private institutions handle things internally when criminal referrals were warranted. We must learn from such mistakes and respond accordingly.
MAILBAG: In response to Saturday’s column about the dire fiscal forecast for rural hospitals, and in hopes of countering the reader email included in that piece, came this response: “As an employee of St. Margaret’s for the past 34 years, I inform you that prior to the acquisition of Illinois Valley Community Hospital, St. Margaret’s was and always had been financially sound. To say ‘not in the best of shape’ is incorrect. St. Margaret’s Health in Spring Valley survived COVID 2020 and a Cyber Attack in 2021. Rescuing IVCH from their failures was too much to bear. So much so that OSF was not interested until we in Spring Valley started to sink. In an attempt to save the Peru hospital, we may lose ours.”
• Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media. Follow him on Twitter @sth749. He can be reached at email@example.com.