Illinois AG report documents 69 priest abuse cases in Diocese of Joliet

AG Kwame Raoul says investigation brought out 348 undisclosed cases

Diocese of Joliet

Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul on Tuesday released a report detailing information on 451 Catholic priests and religious brothers who abused almost 2,000 children in the state over seven decades.

Raoul said the almost 700-page report adds to the list of 103 substantiated cases listed by the six Illinois dioceses before the state investigation began in 2018.

The report includes 69 documented cases in the Diocese of Joliet, which includes Will, Grundy, Kendall, DuPage and three other counties, and almost doubles what was reported by the diocese in 2018.

Diocese of Joliet

“This means that our investigation led to the disclosure of 348 more cases than prior to our investigation,” Raoul said at a news conference announcing the findings.

Raoul said the most recent substantiated cases occurred more than 10 years ago.

“There were substantiated cases into the 2000s – maybe 2010 or so,” he said.

The Attorney General’s Report on Catholic Clergy Child Sex Abuse in Illinois was released Tuesday morning.

Illinois dioceses including Joliet on Thursday posted announcements on their websites describing the process for handling allegations of sexual abuse of minors.

The Joliet diocese was one of only two that listed names of priests and brothers with substantiated claims of sexual abuse before the state investigation. It listed 35 cases at the time. The other was the Archdiocese of Chicago, which listed 68 cases of substantiated abuse claims.

The attorney general’s report includes detailed graphs showing how Illinois dioceses added to the number of substantiated abusers listed on their websites over time as the investigation proceeded.

Even as of Tuesday, the attorney general’s report lists 160 more priests and brothers than are found listed as substantiated abusers on diocesan websites.

The attorney general’s report lists eight more substantiated cases in the Diocese of Joliet than are found on the diocese website.

Raoul said those cases typically involve members of religious orders not directly overseen by the dioceses.

The report also contains a Data Analysis section charting when and how frequently abuse occurred, as well as the bishops that were in place at dioceses at the time.

“The total number of priest and brother child sex abusers peaked in 1984 with a total of 211,” according to the report. “Most of the abusers were local diocesan priests, averaging about 77% of all priests and brothers that were abusers.”

According to the attorney general’s report, the dioceses provided “full support and cooperation” for the investigation, giving access to more than 100,000 pages of documents and “countless interviews” with diocesan representatives and attorneys.

Bishop Ronald Hicks delivers communion to parishioners on Sunday, April 4, 2021, at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in Joliet, Ill. The Parish held an in-person socially distant Easter service, where the Bishop delivered his sermon in Spanish.

Diocese of Joliet Bishop Ronald Hicks issued a statement saying that the report tells “a story of pain, grief, shame, betrayal and anger experienced by innocent individuals because of unspeakable acts by clergy in the Diocese of Joliet. Although the majority of abuse occurred decades ago, many victims/survivors remain haunted to this day.”

The lengthy statement from Hicks went on, like the statement issued by the diocese last week, to outline procedures the diocese now takes when receiving allegations of abuse.

Hicks said the diocese encourages those bringing allegations of abuse to make reports to the Department of Children and Family Services and said the diocese itself reports allegations to civil authorities.

Both the statement from Hicks and the one put on the diocese website last week also listed church initiatives dealing with abuse allegations going back to the early 1990s.

“By issuing this joint public statement, the Illinois dioceses hope to enhance the public’s understanding of how they handle allegations of sexual abuse of minors,” according to the statement.

Survivors, however, said the attorney general’s report provides new insight into the Catholic Church’s handling of allegations.

“It is a good day for transparency and survivors,” said David Rudofski of New Lenox, who said his abuse occurred during his first confession at the age of 8 at St. Mary Catholic Church in Mokena. “I feel that the report will shed even more light on what we know has been coverups and mishandling and downright lies over the years.”

Rudofski was a plaintiff in a lawsuit that led to a 2013 court order requiring the diocese to release documents that his attorneys said showed Joliet bishops knew of sexual abuse going back to 1958. The order also led to the addition of nine more names to the diocese list of known abusers, which totaled 34 at the time.

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) put out a statement critical of the dioceses’ continued handling of abuse allegations.

Larry Antonsen, SNAP leader in Chicago, told The Herald-News that the attorney general’s report “gives a little bit of vindication to the people who are survivors.”

Antonsen said he believes the number of abuse cases substantiated in the report “are very, very low.”

“This is just scratching the surface,” Antonsen said. “There’s a whole lot more than this.”