Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul speaks during a press conference Tuesday about a major investigation into the Catholic dioceses. | Photo via Illinois Attorney General’s office

(The Center Square) – An investigation by the Illinois Attorney General’s office found that 451 Catholic clergy sexually abused thousands of children over a 70-year period in Illinois, more than four times the number the church acknowledged.

When the Illinois Attorney General’s office began an investigation into Illinois’ Catholic dioceses in 2018, the church publicly admitted to 103 known sex abusers.

The 700-page report released Tuesday says nearly 2,000 children have been sexually abused by Catholic clergy since 1950 at its six dioceses – Rockford, Joliet, Belleville, Springfield, Peoria and Chicago.

During a Tuesday news conference, Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul said his team had two goals with the investigation.

“First, to obtain and provide a full public accounting of substantiated child sex abuse committed by Catholic clergy within the state of Illinois,” Raoul said.

“Second, to give survivors an opportunity to be heard, recognizing that some of these survivors have spent decades on their path to healing,” Raoul said.

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Investigators said they reviewed over 100,000 pages of documents from the church and were able to contact over 600 survivors.

They said the narratives from survivors were clear-cut evidence that the church failed to support survivors and covered up reports of abuse.

Raoul said because of the statute of limitations, prosecution is not an option for many.

“These perpetrators may never be held accountable in a court of law, but by naming them here, the intention is to provide a public accountability and a measure of healing to survivors who have long suffered in silence,” Raoul said.

Bishop Thomas John Paprocki of the Diocese in Springfield issued a statement in response to the report.

“The Attorney General’s inquiry into the history of clergy sexual abuse of minors in this diocese has served as a reminder that some clergy in the church committed shameful and disgraceful sins against innocent victim survivors and did damage that simply cannot be undone,” Paprocki said.

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“As bishop of this diocese, I cannot undo the damage of the past, but I have been and continue to be fully committed to ensuring we do all we can to prevent abuse from happening again,” Paprocki added.

The Attorney General’s report can be found at ClergyReport.IllinoisAttorneyGeneral.gov.