Accusations that Chicagoland Catholic priests have sexually abused others are nothing new. Sexual abuse is a sensitive topic and, until recently, often ignored, swept under the rug, or hidden by the church and its officials. The six archdioceses in Illinois finally created a list in 2018 that named priests and other clergy who were credibly accused of sexual abuse. That list more than doubled last month, yet some previously accused priests still do not appear. Reach out to a Chicago sexual abuse lawyer.
Specifically, the Chicago Sun-Times reported that five Chicago area priests were accused of sexual abuse related to incidents in the 1970s. That matter was settled in February 2022 when the archdiocese paid $800,000 to the survivors. However, while four of the five priests’ names are now on the list, one priest, Rev. George Clements, was not. The archdiocese initially claimed it was still investigating the allegations, and it had not made a final decision about the list at that time.
According to ABC-TV Channel 7 Chicago, earlier this year, archdiocese officials admitted the church’s Independent Review Board investigated one accusation against Rev. Clements and decided it was not credible. However, the board did not finish investigating a second allegation because Rev. Clements died during the process. With little regard for the alleged victim, the church set the matter aside.
Illinois’s Attorney General Began Investigating Clergy Sexual Abuse Cases in 2018
In 2018, Lisa Madigan, then Illinois’s Attorney General (AG), launched an extensive investigation into the numerous Illinois clergy members who were credibly accused of sexual abuse. The investigation’s preliminary findings revealed that all six Illinois archdioceses underreported the clergymen who were credibly accused by sex abuse survivors.
At that time, the six dioceses publicly named 185 clergy members who were credibly accused of child sexual abuse. The AG’s investigation found Catholic dioceses had received allegations of sexual abuse involving an additional 500 priests and clergy members who the dioceses did not name. The AG investigation also showed that the dioceses either improperly investigated the allegations or did not investigate them at all.
Why It’s Important to Name All Chicago Priests Accused of Sexual Abuse
The AG’s investigation determined that in many alleged sexual abuse cases, the church never contacted the Department of Children and Family Services and didn’t notify law enforcement about these alleged abusive acts. The most common excuse for the church’s failure to take action to protect the victims was that the priest had already resigned or died by the time it received the allegations.
As of 2018, Cardinal Blase Cupich admitted that the Chicago Archdiocese had already paid $200 million to settle sexual abuse claims against clergy members. In Rev. Clements’s case, the survivor who recently settled with the archdiocese was not the only person to accuse Clements of sexual abuse. When a different survivor accused Clements of sexual abuse in 2019, the reverend resigned from his ministry position.
The church should name the perpetrators of these heinous acts whether they already resigned or died, and clearly, if they are still actively ministering to the masses.
Chicago sexual abuse lawyers have made it their mission to hold the church responsible when appropriate and help the survivors heal from their past trauma.
As former Attorney General Madigan stated:
“By choosing not to thoroughly investigate allegations, the Catholic Church has failed in its moral obligation to provide survivors, parishioners, and the public a complete and accurate accounting of all sexually inappropriate behavior involving priests in Illinois, The failure to investigate also means that the Catholic Church has never made an effort to determine whether the conduct of the accused priests was ignored or covered up by superiors.”
In the meantime, the victims of clergy-related sexual abuse continue to suffer without a voice, doubt themselves, and question if they should speak up about their abuse.
If you or someone you know is a church-related sex abuse survivor, contact a sexual abuse lawyer to learn how you may recover compensation from those responsible for your injuries.
Clergy-Related Child Sexual Abuse Can Cause Many Types of Harm
When a child suffers sexual abuse, they suffer more than physical harm. The long-term damage caused by the abuser can include emotional, psychological, and physical harm. These issues are not easy to resolve, but support, care, and understanding can manage and improve them.
When an authority figure such as a clergyman or teacher is the abuser, the abuse violates trust and can affect the victim for the rest of their life. As children, we are raised to believe certain people will care for us and always do the right thing. When a priest violates that trust, it is confusing, intimidating, and often challenging for the child to know who to trust in the future.
Alarming Statistics About Child Sexual Abuse
Sexual abuse, especially church-related abuse, is one of the most prevalant but least-discussed types of abuse in society. RAINN is a national, anti-sexual violence organization that helps sexual abuse survivors and compiles statistics about the occurrence of sex abuse in the United States.
If you were a victim of child sexual abuse, you might feel isolated and alone, but many others are facing similar issues. According to recent RAINN reports, a child is sexually assaulted every nine minutes in our country.
Sadly, other statistics show:
- 15 percent of sexual abuse survivors are younger than 12,
- 44 percent of sexual abuse survivors are younger than 18, and
- 93 percent of child sexual abuse survivors knew their abuser.
While any form of sexual abuse is despicable, sexual abuse against helpless children by someone they are raised to trust and respect is even more appalling.
Victims of Sexual Abuse by Priests Suffer Lifelong Damages
Survivors of childhood sexual abuse at the hands of a priest or other clergyman can cause life-changing damage. RAINN reports that sexual abuse survivors are 26 times more likely to abuse drugs and 13 times more likely to abuse alcohol. Survivors are also three times more likely to battle depression and four times more likely to contemplate suicide.
The emotional and psychological scars run far deeper than these survivors’ physical injuries.
Many abused children will experience short-term and long-term implications such as:
- Guilt or shame because they are told the abuse is their fault, they brought it on, or they somehow deserved the abuse,
- Fear that someone will find out after they were told they couldn’t tell anyone,
- Embarrassment or guilt that they didn’t stop the abuse or tell someone long ago,
- The inability to be intimate as an adult, especially if the abuse was the first sexual experience in their life,
- Low self-esteem resulting from the abuser’s negative manipulations, from having their body and personal space violated, or from other people ignoring them if they try to talk about the abuse.
Survivors struggle with their prior abuse in different ways.
In general, sexual abuse survivors are more prone to debilitating:
- Behavioral changes, including dramatic mood swings and self-harming actions,
- Clinical depression,
- PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) that can manifest under various conditions and can cause overwhelming anxiety, panic attacks, fear, and other strong reactions,
- Traumatic flashbacks to the abusive events,
- Poor school performance, truancy, acting out, dropping grades,
- Eating and sleeping disorders, and
- Other manifestations stemming from the early abuse.
These challenges may create permanent, ongoing concerns. Survivors need to be heard, respected, and treated with the utmost care to help them manage and recover from their trauma. Taking legal action against the abuser and the organization that allowed the abuse is one step toward healing and recovery. So is recovering the compensation needed to pay for psychological therapy to treat their conditions.
To take a stand against sexual abuse, we must hold the abusive priest and the church responsible and protect future potential abuse victims.
How Sexual Abuse Survivors Can Seek Justice
If you are a sexual abuse survivor, you may think your only recourse is against your abuser. Depending on your circumstances, you may hold others responsible for what happened. Under the law, if a person or organization was negligent in their legal duty to protect you, you may hold them responsible for your injuries and related damages (the legal term for monetary losses).
For example, if a Chicago priest or clergyman abused you, you might hold the Chicago Archdiocese responsible for:
- Creating an unsafe environment by placing the priest in contact with you, especially if the church knew or should have known about the priest’s activities or prior accusations,
- Failing to perform a background check on the priest or investigate any abuse allegations before assigning him to a position that would allow your abuse, or
- Hiring, promoting, or reassigning clergy members and allowing the abuse to happen.
To fully understand whether your specific situation qualifies for legal action and who you may hold responsible, consult a Chicago sexual abuse lawyer as soon as possible.
All sexual abuse survivors deserve to be heard and represented. Experienced sexual abuse lawyers will understand what you’ve been through, and will treat you with respect and compassion throughout the legal process.
No amount of money can change the past or undo what you endured. Moving forward takes time. Recovery often requires expensive care and counseling. A Chicago sexual abuse lawyer can recover the funds you deserve to improve your life from this point forward.
Part of the healing process is knowing your abuser and the organization that allowed the abuse must face responsibility for their actions. Taking action against your abuser and their employer can do that. The judgment or settlement you recover can prompt systemic changes that may protect others from abuse. Calling a Chicago sexual abuse lawyer can empower you to do that.
If you are a sexual abuse survivor perpetrated by the Catholic Church, whether or not it involved Rev. George Clements, please reach out to a Chicago personal injury lawyer for your free, confidential consultation.