Abuse victim advocates release list of 395 accused priests, church staffers
Advocates for clergy abuse victims released the names Wednesday of 395 priests and church staff members in Illinois they say have been publicly accused of sexually abusing children -- a roster more than twice as long as what the state's six dioceses previously released.
Attorneys handed out a 182-page report that includes the names, assignment histories and, in most cases, photographs of the clergy. They said their list has at least 200 more names than church leaders disclosed because the church lists only those it determines have been credibly accused of sexual misconduct with children.
"We've chosen to reveal this information because the Catholic bishops and the religious orders who are in charge and have this information and hold it secret have chosen to conceal it," said attorney Jeff Anderson, a Minnesota-based attorney and longtime advocate for clergy abuse victims. "We have chosen to reveal it."
The report is available online at http://bit.ly/andersonclergyabuse.
Anderson said he and others began collecting the names from lawsuits, news reports and other sources after a blistering report in December by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, before she left office in January. The report concluded Catholic dioceses in the state had not released the names of at least 500 clergy accused of sexually abusing children and that the dioceses had done a woefully inadequate job of investigating allegations and in some cases didn't investigate at all. Many of those on the list are dead, and only one of the people named remains in active ministry.
Dioceses in Chicago, Springfield and Joliet all issued statements defending their handling of clergy abuse allegations and emphasized that they report all allegations to authorities, immediately removing clergy from ministry while they are under investigation.
"These names are not secret. There was no effort to conceal them. They are all reported to authorities," said John O'Malley, special counsel for the Archdiocese of Chicago.
O'Malley said it was "unfortunate" that some of the names released included clergy who weren't credibly accused. He said he noticed the names of two priests -- one living, one dad -- who were cleared by law enforcement and child protection agencies.
Mary Jane Doerr, the director of the Chicago Archdiocese's Office for the Protection of Children and Youth, said at a news conference Wednesday that her office's efforts to protect children from abuse in the church go "beyond a list of names."
"What's frustrating to me is the lists represent the past," Doerr said. "And it was not a good past, but we don't do that anymore. That's not what's going on today. Today, all allegations are taken seriously."
Anderson's report named about 115 clergy members from the Chicago Archdiocese, of which 77 were priests who have been officially recognized by the church as having substantiated abuse claims made against them.
In all, Anderson said that of the 395 people listed statewide, only 192 have been identified by the church as substantiated abusers.
A list on the Chicago Archdiocese's website shows all 77 priests with substantiated allegations were either removed from public ministry or laicized, or have died.
The Chicago Archdiocese provided background information Wednesday on another 22 of the 203 people in Anderson's report who do not appear on the church's public lists of substantiated abusers.
Two of the 22 are Chicago Archdiocesan priests who have been withdrawn from ministry pending ongoing criminal investigations. Another 10 were dead before the first allegation against them was received. Eight more were cleared after allegations against them were deemed unsubstantiated.
One of the final two cases involved the alleged abuse of a person who was not a minor, and the other was a former seminarian who was criminally charged in 1993.
Only one of the 22 priests is still in active ministry in Chicago. Allegations against the priest were investigated and found unsubstantiated by police, the Department of Children and Family Services and the Archdiocese's Independent Review Board, the Archdiocese said.
Anderson said his priority was protecting the alleged victims of abuse, not the church.
"It's not sullying reputations; it's protecting kids. And we're going to err on the side of their privacy and the protection of the kids instead of the priests," Anderson said.
At a news conference held Wednesday in the Loop, Anderson introduced Joe Iocono, whose allegations of sexual abuse at the hands of a priest decades ago in the Archdiocese of Chicago were substantiated.
"He was a friend of the family, someone I looked up to," he said of the Rev. Thomas Kelly, who has since died. "I didn't know what to do. I was 11 years old."
The Springfield Diocese released a statement that offered "sorrow for the shameful wrongs and evils perpetrated during a dark chapter" in the church's history, but then went on to call Anderson's report and news conference "an impressive professional marketing brochure."
"It does not represent, as Mr. Anderson suggests, a thorough and diligent review of the publicly available facts, and it is highly misleading and irresponsible," the statement read. It also noted that some priests who were already identified by the church as abusers were listed as deceased on the church's website but as "status unknown" in Anderson's report.
Anderson said he plans to continue searching for more priests who've been accused of sexual abuse in Illinois and will update the list in the future.
• The Chicago Sun-Times and Capitol News Illinois contributed to this report.