As another response to the Pennsylvania grand jury report on child sex abuse in the Catholic Church, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has established a clergy abuse hotline for people to report any information on allegations of sexual assault and abuse.
Madigan’s office will then refer allegations to the appropriate state’s attorneys.
“I encourage anyone in the state who has any information about any sexually inappropriate behavior involving a member of the clergy or church in Illinois to contact my office,” Madigan said in a news release.
The clergy abuse hotline follows a Pennsylvania grand jury report which detailed how the Catholic dioceses there systematically hid child abuse by clergy members. The report named seven priests who have connections to Illinois.
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Madigan is working with six state’s attorneys, including St. Clair County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly, in areas where dioceses are headquartered. The Belleville Diocese is based in St. Clair County.
“The attorney general and state’s attorneys in the various dioceses around the state stand together,” Kelly said. “As victims come forward — and they will — my advice to the church and the diocese is cooperate with the attorney general when they come to you, or a grand jury subpoena surely will.”
Illinois has five other Catholic dioceses: Chicago, Rockford, Peoria, Springfield and Joliet.
“As attorney general, I can work with states’ attorneys to force the Church to produce its records and document all of the crimes children in Illinois suffered,” Madigan wrote in an op-ed. “That could be a long and painful process. But Catholic leaders have stood above the people and the law for far too long, and the results have devastated the Church.”
The hotline will be answered by trained staff in Madigan’s office during business hours. Messages left on the hotline will be returned if contact information is provided.
“I have a sense from being out and about in St. Clair County in Southern Illinois there are victims whose stories need to be told, and I believe they will have the courage to come forward to do that, and we’ll go wherever the evidence and the law is appropriate for us to go,” said Kelly, who is running for Congress in Illinois’ 12th district.
In Illinois, the attorney general primarily serves as a public interest lawyer and in this case is encouraging church leaders to be transparent, Kelly said. Grand juries decide if there is sufficient evidence to bring an indictment, not as a body for a civil review, he added.
In St. Clair County, any allegations that might come in will be reviewed by the Children’s Justice Division, Kelly said.
Kelly added that any abuse calls can be reported through the hotline.
“This is for anybody who has information regarding the abuse of a child ... that may have occurred years ago,” Kelly said. “It is for anybody to be able to report.”
The Belleville Diocese did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday. However, last week it said it would cooperate with any investigation.
“For the sake of the victims — and for the sake of doing what is right and just — the diocese does act in cooperation with law enforcement,” Monsignor John Myler, the diocese spokesman, said last week. “Having cooperated in the past, the diocese would do so in the future.”
To contact the Illinois Attorney General’s Clergy Abuse Hotline, call 888-414-7678 or send an email to email@example.com.