Attorney General Kwame Raoul on Friday slammed Cardinal Blase Cupich for the top Catholic cleric in the Chicago region’s response to a blockbuster report this week by Raoul’s office showing the church had hidden the names of hundreds of child-molesting priests and others throughout Illinois.
Cupich released a written statement and posted a video on YouTube in which he called the findings “misleading” and portrayed himself as having been blindsided by them.
In response Friday, Raoul said, “At best, the cardinal’s claims of being blindsided are misleading.
“At worst, they are more of the same, a continuation of the church’s decades-long pattern of turning a blind eye and covering up allegations of child sex abuse to the detriment of survivors,” the attorney general said in a written statement.
“We released this report to give a voice to survivors and to shine light on the church officials who covered up child sex abuse in the church, allowing child sex predators to continue to abuse children who trusted them,” Raoul said.
Catholic church in Illinois vastly underreported clergy sex abuse, Kwame Raoul finds
Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul.
Anthony Vazquez / Sun-Times
Raoul also said, “I am surprised and dismayed by the cardinal’s claim in the media that he and the Archdiocese of Chicago ‘had never heard of’ the priests and religious brothers listed in the group of 125 substantiated child sex abusers named in the report my office issued this week.”
“The cardinal’s statements, including that he needs information on how our investigators substantiated the claims, are particularly perplexing because many of those 125 names — 62 in fact — came directly from an archdiocese spreadsheet entitled, ‘Religious Order Clerics With a Substantiated Allegation of Sexual Abuse of Minors Who Served within the Archdiocese of Chicago.’ ”
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Raoul reported the investigation found that 451 Catholic clerics and religious brothers molested nearly 2,000 kids across Illinois over the last seven decades — and that until Raoul’s investigation was initiated in 2018 under his predecessor, church officials had publicly disclosed the names of only about 100.
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The report also found that while the church has since added more names, there are still 160 child molesters, mostly members of male Catholic religious orders, not publicized on church websites.
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“As my office explained previously, all 451 listed clerics and brothers included in our report have been substantiated by a Catholic source, either by an Illinois diocese, a non-Illinois diocese or a religious order,” Raoul said. “And as our report explains, many of those allegations were substantiated after my office’s investigators presented evidence to church representatives one file at a time.”
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“In his comments to the media, Cardinal Cupich said that if the cases are substantiated, the names will be added to the archdiocese’s website. The archdiocese itself confirmed to my investigators that 62 of the 125 priests and religious brothers in question were substantiated child sex abusers who ministered in the Archdiocese of Chicago. I am calling on the archdiocese to immediately add at least those 62 names to its online list of substantiated child sex abusers.”
Cupich couldn’t be reached for comment. His press office didn’t respond to emails.
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Cupich was in Rome this week, where he told an Associated Press reporter he’d be willing to embrace a recommendation from Raoul that religious orders that don’t make public their abusive clergy would be barred from working in his jurisdiction.
Cupich also said he’s open to the “central office of the church” — the Vatican, where the pope sits — stepping in to get religious orders, which largely operate or staff Chicago area Catholic high schools, to be more transparent on this issue.
While dioceses are geographic arms of the church led by bishops appointed by the pope, orders often span such jurisdictions and have a different leadership structure, and hue to an individual mission or follow in the mold of a particular saint, though they also ultimately report to the pope.
“Once he returns from his trip abroad, we look forward to continuing our dialogue with the cardinal regarding the remaining names on the list of 125 substantiated child sex abusers, which we previously addressed with archdiocese representatives,” Raoul said.
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Click here to read Sun-Times Feb. 7, 2021, report.