Lawsuit alleging priest sex scandal filed against Diocese of Belleville
The Catholic Diocese of Belleville, which covers Southern Illinois, says it has been up front about sexual abuse by priests, and is disagreeing with an assessment released by the Illinois Attorney General’s Office.
In a preliminary report released Wednesday, Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office said the Catholic dioceses in Illinois have not released the names of at least 500 clergy accused of sexually abusing children.
“The Attorney General’s preliminary report cites combined statistics for all six Illinois dioceses of the Province of Chicago without delineating between them,” the Belleville diocese said in a news release on Thursday. “This could give the false impression that a significant number of credibly accused Belleville clergy has not been disclosed. This is incorrect. The Diocese of Belleville has publicly identified all members of its clergy who were credibly accused and removed from ministry, and the Attorney General’s Office has not advised the Diocese of any perceived omissions or errors in its public listing.”
The Belleville diocese formed a review board in 1993 to investigate allegations childhood sexual abuse, and removed 17 members of the clergy from ministry. The removals were publicly announced when they occurred and the names were posted on the diocese’s website.
Most of the removals were in the early to mid 1990s.
The diocese said that during the last 25 years it has put in place education, training, prevention and investigation policies and procedures to protect children in the church.
“Even though I appreciate the progress we have made in addressing the sin, scandal and crime of the abuse of minors, I continue to regret the unspeakable pain and suffering that the survivors of past abuse and their family members continue to bear,” Bishop Edward Braxton said. “I think of them and pray for them each day and prayerfully ask them and God for forgiveness. I understand well that we priests are held to a higher standard. Therefore, even one instance of a deacon, priest or bishop sexually abusing a child is deplorable.”
In the news release, Braxton also urged people with knowledge of sexual misconduct by personnel in the diocese to call the “appropriate civil authorities or and ... our hotline immediately at 1-800-640-3044.”
The Illinois Attorney General’s office also has set up a clergy abuse hotline, 1-888-414-7678, for people to report sexual misconduct.
Madigan’s report did not include some details such as when the allegations were made. The report did not accuse the dioceses of withholding the names of “credibly” accused clergy, only that the list of names of accused clergy is far longer than has been made public.
The preliminary report found that the church’s six archdioceses in the state have done an inadequate job of investigating allegations and in some cases did not investigate them at all or notify the state’s child welfare agency.
Madigan’s office said that while the dioceses have disclosed 45 more names of those credibly accused, the total number of names disclosed is only 185 and raises questions about the church’s response to the crisis.
In August, Madigan launched its Clergy Abuse Hotline for anyone to report allegations of sexual abuse by clergy members, as a follow up to a grand jury report in Pennsylvania that detailed how the Catholic dioceses there systematically hid child abuse by clergy members. That report listed seven priests with connection to Illinois.