Crime & Courts

Chicago law firm vows to release names of Catholic clerics who settled sex abuse cases

Chicago law firm has settled sex abuse allegations with more than 300

A Chicago law firm has vowed to release the names of more than 300 Catholic clergy members with whom it has settled sexual abuse allegations.

Attorneys Jeff Anderson and Marc Pearlman, of Jeff Anderson and Associates, made the announcement at a news conference Thursday morning. They expect to release the report Feb. 11, complete with the names, histories and photos of each priest they’ve settled with in the past 20 years.

“There are over 300 survivors who had the courage to come to us privately and work with us,” Anderson said. “Most all of those offenders ... we made known public. But not all of them.”

None of the settlements were confidential, Anderson said.

The attorneys also urged each of the Catholic dioceses in the state to publicly identify more than 500 unnamed clergy members whose dark pasts intentionally were kept under wraps by church officials, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said.

Last month, Madigan released the preliminary findings of her office’s investigation of sexual abuse claims within the Catholic Church, and she claimed to know of more than 500 unidentified clergy members accused of sexually abusing minors.

The investigation is expected to continue under Attorney General-elect Kwame Raoul.

Madigan’s report did not include the accused clergy members’ names or confirm which Illinois dioceses they belonged to.

The Diocese of Rockford responded to the report with skepticism, and said it has fully cooperated with the attorney general’s investigation.

“The Diocese of Rockford does not agree that the attorney general’s report is an accurate reflection of this diocese’s historical and current policies and practices of properly responding to allegations of clergy sexual abuse of minors, and is disappointed with the broad-brush approach taken by the attorney general’s report,” Penny Wiegert, the diocese’s director of communications, wrote in a news release.

Although some have urged the Illinois Attorney General’s Office to release more details and reciprocate the transparency it’s asking of the church, Anderson and Pearlman demanded the state’s Catholic bishops “come clean” by publicly naming all of the priests accused of sexually abusing minors.

The attorneys’ message echoed that of a similar news conference the pair hosted in October to announce their filing of a lawsuit against each of the state’s six Catholic dioceses. The suit alleges that Illinois bishops protected clergy members accused of sexually abusing children, and it calls for public disclosure of the accused church members’ identities.

In November, the Rockford diocese released the names of 15 priests accused of sexual abuse, including at least three of whom previously were assigned to churches in McHenry County. Although the diocese previously reported some of the 15 priests named in the report, others were not disclosed until the diocese reviewed the claims while compiling the list, according to a statement from Rockford Bishop David Malloy at the time.

Anyone with information about allegations of sexual assault and abuse can contact the attorney general’s Clergy Abuse Hotline at 1-888-414-7678 or clergyabuse@atg.state.il.us.

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