Group says some clergy credibly accused of sex abuse in Illinois live without supervision

WGN-TV [Chicago IL]

June 6, 2023

By Courtney Spinelli

Advocates, attorneys, and several survivors of childhood sexual abuse at the hands of clergy members are calling for action and increased transparency by the Catholic church.

“The real impact this has is, you have to look at life through a whole different lens. It’s not a fun one,” said Mike, a survivor who said he was sexually abused by a pastor of his parish in Berwyn decades ago when he was only 11.

He believes what isn’t talked about enough when it comes to sexual assault, is the way it impacts how a survivor sees the world.

“You learn to survive; you learn to thrive,” said Mike. “I’ve had a great life. It’s a perspective that’s a bit unusual.”

On Tuesday, Mike joined others at a news conference prompted by a 700-page report released nearly two weeks ago by Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul. In it, 451 Catholic clergy members were named, who allegedly abused nearly 2,000 children across all six dioceses in Illinois. The abuse spanned decades, Raoul said.AG report finds nearly 350 Catholic clergy accused of sex abuse not publicly listed by Illinois dioceses

“All of this is coming out, victims are hurting,” said Peter Isely, founder and spokesperson for Ending Clergy Abuse (ECA). “Families have been destroyed and [Cardinal Blase Cupich’s] up in Rome. Doing what exactly?”

At Tuesday’s press conference, the group gathered to call on the Archdiocese of Chicago for what they believe is a lack of transparency and needed action.

The group said it is asking Illinois public officials to keep pressure on church officials to do more to protect children and reform laws.

“The archaic and predator friendly laws in this state that protect those who commit and those who conceal abuse,” said David Clohessy, Missouri volunteer director for SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

Participants in Tuesday’s news conference also asked church officials to immediately publish the locations and information, including photographs and locations, of 25 clerics they said are proven, admitted, or credibly accused of child sex abuse, and currently reside, unsupervised in Illinois, living among ‘unsuspecting’ neighbors.

“This is not a bureaucratic squabble, this is a public safety issue,” Clohessy said.

According to the group, the names of the 25 clergy members were released in the AG’s report or on other church lists.

James Geoly, general counsel for the Archdiocese of Chicago responded, and said it would be inappropriate and irresponsible to do such a thing. He said, not only does the church not have current identifying information, the duty or ability to find it, but he also said it is not the responsibility of a private party to post personal information and potentially compromise safety for both the victims or accused parties.Catholic clergy sexually abused Illinois kids far more often than church acknowledged, state finds

“This is not a smart idea, and it is not needed to protect the safety of anyone. The names are on a website; anyone can Google those names if they want to check for someone,” said Geoly.

Geoly also said that just because the Archdiocese made its own private determination that a former priest was likely to have abused a child, that does not give it the right to post his home address on the Internet.

Of the 25 men, attorneys and survivors said nine priests live in Cook County, six in DuPage County, two in Kane County, and one in Will County. The Archdiocese of Chicago looked into the list and said they were made aware that one of the nine men in Cook County is reportedly a priest from the Diocese of Orlando.

“Of the remaining eight, six are laicized, which means they have been completely disaffiliated from the church. They have nothing to do with us, we have nothing to do with them,” said Geoly, who likened being laicized to being an ex-employee of a school system or private company.

Geoly said the final two names in Cook County are in the Archdiocese’s prayer and penance program, meaning they have been removed from all ministries and live in a supervised setting.

The third and final request from the group Tuesday, was for 149 names of accused abusive clergy members to be added to online ‘credibly accused’ lists.

Of the 348 new names listed in the AG’s report, Raoul’s office said Illinois dioceses found 149 clerics the church allegedly determined not to fall under their guidelines.

“Until these dioceses do what they need to do in terms of disclosure, supervision, children are not safe,” said Marc Pearlman, an attorney present at the press conference.

According to Geoly, the Archdiocese of Chicago determined 125 of the 149 clergy members were associated with the Archdiocese of Chicago, and that five are already on their website.

Five others, Geoly said, are priests from other dioceses, and they were not aware of any evidence of a substantiated allegation. Still, he said they are investigating and will add any name to the list who is substantiated by their home diocese and has ever worked in a ministry of the Archdiocese of Chicago.

“The explanation has been that they are religious order priests and not diocesan priests,” said Attorney Melissa Anderson. “Most Catholics do not understand the definition of that, nor should they care.”

Geoly said many of the names on this list, 115 to be exact, are members of religious orders not governed by the Archdiocese of Chicago. Still, he said they will name those with credible accusations against them once their orders carry out the needed investigations.

“Any of those names that belong on the website will be put on the website, but we do not believe that many of them meet the standards,” said Geoly.