May 24, 2023

Illinois AG Probe Finds Illinois Priests Abused Over 1,900 Minors Transcript

Illinois AG Probe Finds Illinois Priests Abused Over 1,900 Minors Transcript
RevBlogTranscriptsAttorney GeneralIllinois AG Probe Finds Illinois Priests Abused Over 1,900 Minors Transcript

The Illinois attorney general revealed findings of a five-year probe into allegations against several parishes in the state. Read the transcript here.

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Kwame Raoul (00:00):

Good morning.

Speaker 1 (00:04):

Good morning.

Kwame Raoul (00:11):

First, I’d like to thank my Office of Attorney General team for their expertise, patience, diligence, and perseverance they all demonstrated to produce a thorough, highly detailed report.

Since investigation’s inception, more than 25 of our staff members, including attorneys, policy advisors, investigators, and support staff, have dedicated countless hours over four and a half years to thoroughly investigating and finalizing the clergy report we are releasing today.

In particular, I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge the attorneys and policy advisors involved in this effort. I think they’re all present today.

First, Tom Verticchio, Assistant Chief Deputy AG, Caitlyn McEllis, Senior Policy Counsel. Wendy Cohen, Senior Policy Advisor, Darren Kinkead, Deputy Bureau Chief of Special Litigation, Eileen Boyle Perich, Senior AAG, Isaac Freilich Jones, AAG, Sarah Gallo, AAG, Sandra Gallant-Jones, AAG, John Hazinski, AAG, and Elizabeth Jordan, AAG. Thank you. The clergy report has been a long time coming. Throughout our work on this investigation, there have been many challenges and intervening factors that may have contributed to the delay of releasing this report. We were not in a race.

During the pandemic, we were faced with increased demands on staff due to the implementation and defense of emergency protocols, actions to protect essential workers and other unexpected challenges that preoccupied many of our lead attorneys who worked on the clergy investigation. We also dealt with a ransomware attack that temporarily crippled our office’s systems.

Aside from these practical obstacles, this team has also had to surmount the emotional challenges that unavoidably accompany of an investigation of this sensitive subject matter. This teamwork assiduously on this protracted collaborative effort with grace and compassion. And again, I thank each and every one of you.

Now, before we dive into the heart of this report, I believe it’s important that I share my personal history with the Catholic Church so as to disabuse you of any notions that I have a personal ax to grind with the church.

My mother was a faithful practicing Catholic for the entirety of her life, praying every night and regularly attending church. She was a Haitian immigrant, and Catholicism was the official religion of Haiti during her time there. Consequently, I was raised and confirmed in the Catholic Church.

My wife and I sent our children to Catholic school. I have personally witnessed how the Catholic Church has made tremendous contributions in education, assisting disabled children, helping the homeless, advocacy against violence, efforts to provide hope to abused and neglected children, and numerous other contributions the church has made to our society for its betterment.

However, it is precisely because of its many virtuous deeds and benevolence that we the public and many families put faith in the Catholic Church and its leaders in ways that we do not trust other establishments. But when such trust is betrayed with abuse to children, and there are efforts to cover it up, the call for accountability should be resounding. We are here this morning to announce my office’s report on a multi-year investigation into child sex abuse by members of the Catholic clergy in the state of Illinois. And this is our report.

This report represents the state of Illinois’s first comprehensive accounting of child sex abuse by members of the Catholic clergy in the six diocese across Illinois, including the diocese of Belleville, Joliet, Peoria, Rockford, Springfield, and the Archdiocese of Chicago.

This investigation began in the latter half of 2018. Under the leadership of then Attorney General Lisa Madigan. Even before I was sworn into office, I committed to continuing the investigation that my predecessor had initiated. Throughout the investigation, we had two goals. First, to obtain and provide a full public accounting of substantiated child sex abuse committed by Catholic clergy within the state of Illinois. Second, to give survivors an opportunity to be heard, recognizing that some of these survivors have spent decades, decades on their path to healing. From the outset of the investigation, the leaders of the Illinois Diocese pledged their full support and cooperation in assisting my office towards achieving these goals. Each ultimately fulfilled their pledge by providing access and working on policies and procedures.

During our investigation, my attorneys and investigators examined thousands of files, reviewing more than a hundred thousand pages of documents held by the diocese. They spent endless hours engaged in interviews and conversations with diocese leadership and representations.

Cooperation from the diocese aside, it was the survivors of child sex abuse who gave purpose and drive to this investigation. Absent their courage and willingness to come forward and discuss their experience, there would be no true investigative report.

Over the course of this investigation, my office received more than 600 confidential contacts from survivors through emails, letters, in-person interviews, and phone calls. My investigation team prioritized treating each allegation with respect. They followed every lead that arose to ensure we conducted a thorough and comprehensive investigation. My team worked closely with survivors to record accounts of their experiences as children sexually abused by Catholic clerics.

So I would like to express my sincere gratitude to each and every survivor and to others who contacted my office for trusting us

Kwame Raoul (09:00):

… with their deeply personal experiences. Before this investigation, the Catholic Diocese of Illinois publicly listed only 103 substantiated child sex abusers, substantiated meaning that available evidence supported the conclusion that the cleric or religious brother committed to child sex abuse. Now, by comparison, this report reveals the names and detailed information of 451 Catholic clerics and religious brothers who abused at least 1,997 children across all of the dioceses in the state of Illinois. This means that our investigation led to the disclosure of 348 more clerics than prior to our investigation. Now, there are 149 clerics that this report discloses that are not disclosed by the diocese.

This report is organized into five sections. The first section explains the long-term impact of child sex abuse, which is particularly critical in this context. The second details each diocese’s historic handling of child sex abuse, and specifically how inaction by Catholic bishops and archbishops often led to scores of abused children. The section also includes detailed narrative accounts of child sex abuse committed by Catholic clerics. Many of these narratives are told from the survivor’s point of view, written in consultation with the survivor, and based upon their experience. The third section covers diocese policies and practices related to allegations of child sex abuse. Our team had multiple conversations with various members of each diocese. This section includes concerns my office raised with the dioceses about their policies revealing how the dioceses often modified their policies to address these concerns. When agreement couldn’t be reached for modifications, our office made recommendations.

The fourth section discusses data analysis undertaken by my office with a recognized data expert, showing the extent of child sex abuse by Clares in each Illinois diocese year by year over a 70-year period. Data expert Greg Ridgeway reviewed the data that our office compiled. Significantly, the analysis reveals that each Illinois diocese under-reported the number of child sex abusers in the Catholic clergy when they initially released those numbers to the public. And finally, one of the most important sections of the report, my office’s recommendations to the dioceses for the handling of future child sex abuse allegations against the Catholic clerics and religious brothers. This section of our report is distinguishable from similar reports issued by other states, not only because it’s survivor-centered, but also because it contains 50 pages of detailed recommendations such as how the dioceses can address investigations and disclosures of child sex abuse, how the dioceses can implement a mediation and compensation program for survivors, how the dioceses can improve their investigations, how the dioceses can better communicate with survivors, and how the diocese can be more transparent in publicly disclosed substantiated child sex abusers.

This investigation has directly resulted in significant steps forward in the dioceses’ policies related to investigations disclosure and transparency, and survivor care and communication. Decades of Catholic leadership decisions and policies have allowed known child sex abusers to hide often in plain sight. And because the statute of limitations has frequently expired, many survivors of child sex abuse at the hands of Catholic clerics will never see justice in a legal sense, but it is my sincere hope that this report will shine a light on those who violated their positions of power and trust to abuse innocent children, and on the men in church leadership who covered up that abuse. These perpetrators may never be held accountable in a court of law, but by naming them in this report, the intention is to provide the public with public accountability, and a measure of healing to survivors who have long suffered in silence. Our office takes every instance of reported child abuse seriously, and I believe the breadth of this 700-page report evinces that. Moreover, we engaged a consultant to design a website to ensure this information is easily accessible to the public.

Nevertheless, the reality of child sex abuse does not end with this report. Consequently, I’d like to conclude by directing the public to appropriate agencies that can provide continued assistance and support. To report current child abuse allegations, we encourage you to contact the Department of Children and Family Services, and for past child abuse, the survivor’s network of those abused by priests or SNAP can offer meaningful direction and support. I thank you for your time and I want to again thank my staff and thank all of the survivors who’ve come forward, and at this point we’ll take questions.

Speaker 2 (16:09):

Sir, [inaudible 00:16:17] what is their status that you [inaudible 00:16:20]?

Kwame Raoul (16:19):

There’s a mix, and let me get to that data. Of the 451, there are 330 who are dead.

Press (16:44):

[inaudible 00:16:45] said that they had everything. Everything’s out there. The Cardinal’s on record saying, “The AG’s not going to fight anything,” at the start of this, “because we’re doing everything right and we’ve always done everything right.” What does this tell you? Again, complying. Is the church complying in public or is this full oversight? Is it incompetence? Is there some combination? How would you characterize this?

Kwame Raoul (17:22):

Well, as I had mentioned, there were 103 disclosed prior to our investigations and our investigations led to the disclosure of 348 more. I think the numbers speak for themselves on that. Let me say that, as I indicated, there was cooperation by the dioceses.

Kwame Raoul (18:02):

As I speak of those numbers, there’s still 149 clerics that the diocese do not disclose that our report discloses.

Press (18:14):

Can you clarify that? So it’s 149, but it’s 160 because some of them are spread to a couple diocese, right?

Kwame Raoul (18:19):


Press (18:19):


Speaker 4 (18:28):

Can you explain the issues with ex-term clerics? The reporting that the diocese did not do when they knew that somebody had a credible allegation against them but they weren’t part of?

Kwame Raoul (18:37):

So that’s the 149 that I mentioned or the 160, depending on how you want to count, were from religious orders. And the, I guess, position of the church, I’ll let the church speak for themselves, but to the extent that they were ministering under the diocese and had significant contact, either in schools or otherwise, we considered as part of their investigation, important to disclose each and every cleric that abused children.

Speaker 4 (19:19):

And that was a point of contention, some guys who did not want to release those names, correct?

Kwame Raoul (19:24):

That’s correct. There’s 149, which is a significant number. More than the initial number of cleric’s initially disclosed by all the diocese together.

Speaker 3 (19:40):

Mr. Raoul, when you look at the investigation in Pennsylvania and you look at the investigation here, can you put it in perspective in how it appears when the amount of Catholics there and the amount of Catholics here [inaudible 00:19:51], the amount of the population there and the amount of population here? And speaking with staff this morning, staff was saying numbers are staggering, but that this investigation here in Illinois reveals something huge, big, that the numbers are just so large in comparison to was found in Pennsylvania.

Kwame Raoul (20:17):

Yeah. Well, let me first thank now governor, former Attorney General, Josh Shapiro, for his initiation of the investigation in Pennsylvania and for his initial report because that led to my predecessor and others to initiate needed investigations in other jurisdictions.

I mentioned that we weren’t in a race during my opening comments. We certainly weren’t in a competition either. What we wanted to do is to be thorough, to allow voice to each and every survivor who had the courage to come forward, not to prematurely release an inadequate report. Maybe because some of you all were asking, “Where’s the report? Where’s the report?” It was more important for us to get it right. I do believe there are distinctions between our report and other reports. I don’t have all the data on Pennsylvania’s numbers versus ours. And quite frankly, I don’t want to engage in that. I think one of the critical areas that, as I mentioned earlier, that distinguishes us from other reports is the detailed nature of our recommendations for things that the diocese can still take up.

Speaker 4 (22:17):

Will that be followed up on? The recommendations. Will there be any further reporting that goes through your office?

Kwame Raoul (22:25):

This is our final report on the clergy investigation.

Thomas Verticchio (22:28):

Mr. Attorney General, do you believe that there should be some sort of non-religious oversights when it comes to these clergy abuse allegations in the future? Because as you said, it’s [inaudible 00:22:44].

Kwame Raoul (22:44):

Yeah. As part of our recommendations, we recommended independent investigations.

Thomas Verticchio (22:53):

In your eye, what is that independent oversight?

Kwame Raoul (22:59):

Well, first of all, if somebody outside of the church initiate an investigation. I think given the history of how things were handled, and I will say again, there was cooperation during our investigation and there were policies that were embraced, recommendations that were embraced along the way. But it’s important to not ignore the history of how these matters were handled prior to our investigation and what that calls for, in terms of transparency and credibility, in terms of any future investigations. And so to me, that would call for credible people outside of the church to be involved in those investigations.

Press (23:57):

The 160, I’m sorry, we keep going back. You said something earlier I think. So all of those are religious priests? You said 160?

Kwame Raoul (24:03):

Is that right? The majority of them.

Press (24:07):

The majority, okay. And then also to that end, so you got all this information from the six diocese, right? And from the survivors, but not religious orders themselves, is that correct?

Kwame Raoul (24:24):

It’s Tom Verticchio.

Thomas Verticchio (24:26):

I’m sorry, General.

Press (24:26):

How are you doing?

Thomas Verticchio (24:27):

I’m fine, thank you. We obtained information relating to various religious orders from all six diocese. So while the investigation focused on the diocese, the religious order information was provided to us from the diocese. So indirectly, we did obtain information on religious orders across the board.

Press (24:53):

To follow up on that, though we talked previously about this, but the religious orders don’t all turn this stuff over to the diocese, as you might know. In fact, probably most of them don’t or certainly many. So does this complete this? While the numbers are staggering, how much larger might the numbers really be? Because again, the diocese turn it over to you only by virtue of the orders giving it to them. If the orders didn’t give it to them, there’s nothing to turn over to you. Therefore, is there a big, baking hole here where there’s more, there’s probably a lot more abuse that you don’t know about and the diocese may or may not have given anything up?

Thomas Verticchio (25:32):

We did far more than just obtain information from the diocese, on religious orders. Our investigation would span, and did span, information available across the country so that we could in fact identify religious order clerics or brothers who ministered in Illinois and abused and then approached the diocese about them. So that’s one thing.

Then the other is, and this is a specific recommendation in the report, we outline the best practices for the diocese to go forward regarding approaching religious orders, requiring that religious orders provide all this information. And that’s one of the detailed recommendations. But your question about could there be more, there could be more. But this is a very, very fulsome, complete investigation.

Press (26:31):

Is there a reason, and again, just asking, why not go to the orders and subpoena, ask? Or at least the major ones. Was there a reason why not to do that? And again, that would be more.

Thomas Verticchio (26:46):

The investigation started as an investigation of the six Illinois diocese and that was the focus throughout. And then throughout the investigation, the information relating to ministering within the six diocese included

Speaker 5 (27:00):

… the religious orders. So it began with the six diocese and it ended with the six diocese.

Kwame Raoul (27:07):

Let me sort of add on to that because it’s a little point of contention in our discussion with leaders within the church of, why not go everywhere else there might be child sexual abuse? This was initiated again after the Pennsylvania investigation. And yes, indeed, I have no doubt that there are other areas, not just within these religious orders, but unfortunately other places, in other institutions, in our state and others. But as I said, when I spoke specifically about my personal experience with the church and the level of trust that families have developed because of the church’s benevolence and virtuous deeds, there’s something unique about the focus on the diocese.

Press (28:30):

Can you describe some of the ways that you substantiated these claims? I imagine some of were fairly old, and the clergy have since passed away.

Kwame Raoul (28:40):

Well, first and foremost, it’s the courage and the willingness of survivors to come forth and some of the cooperation of the diocese themselves and the hard work of my staff to put these two things together, to have these claims substantiated. And it’s important to note, when we say substantiated, we were not calling balls and strikes. The church is, in the end, substantiating.

Press (29:28):

The other AG reports in different states, including, I think, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, led to some criminal prosecutions. It started out as a civil/criminal thing and [inaudible 00:29:39] a number of charges. Anything here that you guys found that’s chargeable or you did charge or you referred to somebody else the charges [inaudible 00:29:43] civil matter?

Speaker 6 (29:43):

[inaudible 00:29:43].

Press (29:43):

You have 121 who are still alive. Does any of that [inaudible 00:29:56] in the statute of limitations?

Kwame Raoul (30:01):

If there was any sort of doubt with regards to the statute of limitations, if there was sort of uncertainty whether things were told or whatever it might have been, we would contact local prosecutors who would have the jurisdiction.

Press (30:21):

That was not done, sir?

Kwame Raoul (30:21):


Press (30:21):

That was not done, correct? There was no-

Kwame Raoul (30:22):

No, whenever there was any doubt-

Press (30:25):

Oh, so you did.

Kwame Raoul (30:26):

Yeah. In those situations, yeah. That doesn’t mean that… When I say whenever there was any doubt, that doesn’t mean that there wasn’t a later assessment by those local prosecutors that the statute of limitations had indeed expired.

Press (30:44):

Do you know how many referrals [inaudible 00:30:45]?

Kwame Raoul (30:45):

Offhand, I don’t have that information.

Press (30:47):

But none that you know of has led to criminal charges.

Kwame Raoul (30:47):


Press (30:57):

I’m sorry to [inaudible 00:30:57] monopolize the questions, but in terms of the moving forward, you talked about… I think what the report says is that because other states have opened up the books and expanded the stature of limitations, if not on the criminal side, certainly the civil side [inaudible 00:31:15] adults and then sue, successfully potentially… And that’s been done in New York, California, blah, blah, blah. But here, you reported that it says it basically can’t be done without opening up the state constitution.

Kwame Raoul (31:28):

Right. And so in the case, Doe v. The Diocese of Dallas, which is a Illinois Supreme Court case, it was determined that the expiration of the statute of limitations is, by our Supreme Court, is a property right. And therefore, we’d have our… The legislature, I’m not going to speak to that.

Press (32:01):

What is the statute of limitations? What is the statute of limitations?

Kwame Raoul (32:07):

Well, now I think the legislature has revised prospectively to have it that there is no statute of limitation.

Press (32:17):

And finally, how far back did the allegations in this particular report go and how-

Kwame Raoul (32:23):

I think it was seven decades. Yep.

Press (32:39):

And what was the most recent allegation that’s listed that was part of the scope of this report?

Kwame Raoul (32:42):

Do we know that offhand?

Speaker 6 (32:42):

Substantial ones, it was around 2000 to 2010.

Kwame Raoul (32:43):

There were substantial ones into the 2000s, maybe around 2010 or so.

Press (32:50):

I’m sorry, I sort of got cut off my last question, but would you support amending the constitution [inaudible 00:32:56]-

Kwame Raoul (32:55):

I answered that. I’m not speaking to them.

Press (32:57):


Speaker 7 (33:02):

Thank you.

Kwame Raoul (33:02):

Thank you.

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