Over 450 Catholic clergy members abused nearly 2,000 children in Illinois since 1950, according to a report released by the state attorney general last month. Before the start of the investigation, the church had publicly acknowledged only around 100 individual abusers. The report comes at a time when increasing numbers of Catholic priests across the nation are being accused of sexual abuse.
Hundreds of Priests Abused Thousands of Children
After a Pennsylvania grand jury found that over 300 Catholic clerics had abused over 1,000 children during a 70-year period, Illinois began its own state investigation into clergy sexual assaults starting in 2018. The nearly 700-page report released in May found evidence that 451 Catholic clergy members abused at least 1,997 children across Illinois between 1950 and 2019.
According to the report, church leadership often ignored the allegations and simply moved abusers from church to church. An earlier preliminary review concluded that church dioceses in Illinois had inadequately handled allegations of sex abuse, sometimes not investigating them at all or notifying the state’s child welfare agency. Nearly every clergy sexual abuse victim interviewed by investigators experienced mental health struggles after being molested.
Various States Investigate the Catholic Church
The Illinois investigation is the latest in a long line of state inquiries into Catholic clergy abuse. Since the Pennsylvania report came out in 2018, the attorneys general of some 20 other states conducted sex assault investigations into the Catholic Church, including the following.
- Maryland (2023) — The attorney general’s office released a report identifying 156 Catholic priests, deacons, teachers, and seminarians in the Archdiocese of Baltimore accused of sexually abusing and physically torturing over 600 victims.
- Florida (2020) — After a two-year investigation into allegations that Catholic priests sexually abused children, the attorney general’s office published a report naming 97 Catholic priests meeting the state’s criteria for prosecution.
- Missouri (2019) — An investigation by the attorney general’s office revealed 163 Catholic clerics accused of sexual abuse or misconduct against minors. It also referred 12 cases for potential criminal prosecution.
Filing Civil Cases Against Clergy Sexual Abusers
While many states and dioceses across the country have started to identify perpetrators of clergy sexual abuse, many of them will never face consequences. In some cases, the abuser is deceased or the criminal statute of limitations has passed. However, that doesn’t always mean it is too late to seek justice.
Some states have eliminated statutes of limitations for child sex abuse and others have created temporary lookback windows allowing civil lawsuits to proceed no matter when the abuse occurred. In Massachusetts, survivors of childhood sexual assault may have until age 53 to sue their abusers.
If you were abused by a priest or other clergy member, a skilled lawyer can help evaluate your options. The compassionate attorneys at Altman & Altman LLP have extensive experience helping sexual assault victims in Massachusetts. To learn more about seeking legal accountability from the person who abused you, contact us today for a confidential free consultation.