Close Close Comment Creative Commons Donate Email Add Email Facebook Instagram Facebook Messenger Mobile Nav Menu Podcast Print RSS Search Secure Twitter WhatsApp YouTube

Sexual Abuse Reports From Illinois’ Catholic Dioceses Are Still Missing A Lot of Data

ProPublica’s “Credibly Accused” database lists names and info of abusers currently or formerly in the ranks of U.S. Catholic dioceses. Here’s a rundown on Illinois.

Mark Smith, special to ProPublica

ProPublica Illinois is a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power. Sign up to get weekly updates about our work.

While researching a bit of context to introduce this week’s newsletter, I came across a column from May 2019 written by Chicago Sun-Times journalist Laura Washington. In it, she writes about the horror she felt as she sat in the pews of her church earlier that year while a representative of the Archdiocese of Chicago informed the congregation that its “beloved pastor” had been accused of sexually abusing a minor in 1979, when he was at another parish.

“I sat in the pew in stunned silence,” Washington wrote, adding: “The headlines of rampant abuse and cover-ups in the church are horrific enough. This was surreal.”

Illinois is home to six Catholic dioceses; the Chicago Archdiocese is the third-largest in the U.S. They are among many dioceses across the nation that have released names of priests currently or formerly in their ranks who they have deemed to have been credibly accused of sexual abuse or misconduct. Those lists had not been aggregated in one place, however. That changed this week, as my ProPublica colleagues released a searchable database of this information, which also functions as a sort of priest tracker, since parishes have sometimes transferred accused clergy elsewhere.

What’s not included on this list is perhaps just as telling as what is. In Illinois, many dioceses failed to provide important information. The Archdiocese of Chicago, serving a Catholic population of 2,180,000, did not include assignment histories, which tell you in which parishes the individual served and when. The archdiocese also lists only 78 clergy names. An investigation by former Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan found in 2018 that 690 clergy members among Illinois dioceses have been accused of sexually abusing minors — though the cases “frequently have not been adequately investigated by the dioceses or not investigated at all.” Various Illinois archdioceses disputed parts of the report.

The Diocese of Belleville, which serves a Catholic population of 124,280, also failed to release assignment histories for the 17 clergy members listed. So did the Diocese of Springfield, which lists 21 names. Two other groups, the St. Thomas Syro Malabar Diocese of Chicago and St. Nicholas of Chicago for Ukrainians, did not release any information at all.

Still, as ProPublica’s president, Dick Tofel, wrote in his Not Shutting Up newsletter this week, our “Credibly Accused” database can be a powerful tool for survivors of sexual abuse. Not only could finding a clergy member’s name and information in the database help validate an individual’s experience, it could help place the “burden of shame and self-blame to the perpetrator, where it belongs,” said Anne Barrett Doyle, co-director of BishopAccountability.org, which tracks allegations of clergy abuse and seeks to hold priests accountable.

You can search our “Credibly Accused” database here. If you have any information you’d like to share, please reach out to us at illinois@propublica.org.

Filed under:

Protect Independent Journalism

ProPublica is a nonprofit newsroom that produces nonpartisan, evidence-based journalism to expose injustice, corruption and wrongdoing. We were founded ten years ago to fill a growing hole in journalism: newsrooms were (and still are) shrinking, and legacy funding models failing. Deep-dive reporting like ours is slow and expensive, and investigative journalism is a luxury in many newsrooms today — but it remains as critical as ever to democracy and our civic life. A decade (and five Pulitzer Prizes) later, ProPublica has built the largest investigative newsroom in the country. Our work has spurred reform through legislation, at the voting booth, and inside our nation’s most important institutions.

This story you’ve just finished was funded by our readers and we hope it inspires you to make a gift to ProPublica so that we can publish more investigations like this one that holds people in power to account and produces real change.

Your donation will help us ensure that we can continue this critical work. From the Trump Administration, criminal justice, health care, immigration and so much more, we are busier than ever covering stories you won’t see anywhere else. Make your gift of any amount today and join the tens of thousands of ProPublicans across the country, standing up for the power of independent journalism to produce real, lasting change. Thank you.

Donate Now

Portrait of Logan Jaffe

Logan Jaffe

Logan Jaffe is the engagement reporter for ProPublica Illinois.

More from ProPublica

Current site Current page