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Raoul urged to subpoena Catholic church about sexual abuse allegations

Advocates for victims of priest sexual abuse were also critical of a recent private meeting between the Illinois attorney general and Cardinal Blase Cupich.

Cardinal Blase Cupich and Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul
Cardinal Blase Cupich and Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul
Sun-Times file photos

Advocates for victims of priest sex abuse called Friday for Attorney General Kwame Raoul to use his power of subpoena to compel the Catholic church in Illinois to hand over evidence in an ongoing probe into clergy sex abuse of minors.

Leaders of SNAP and The Archangel Foundation, nonprofit sex abuse survivor advocacy groups, also were critical of a recent private meeting between Raoul and Cardinal Blase Cupich.

Larry Antonsen, a leader with SNAP, said the one-on-one meeting doesn’t lend credibility to the integrity of the investigation.

“The church talks about transparency, and then the cardinal asks for a private meeting with the attorney general, which sounds kind of fishy,” Antonsen said during a news conference outside Cupich’s Gold Coast office.

“Across, the country, there’s still cover-ups going on, and there’s no reason that I know of why we should trust Cardinal Cupich or any other member of the hierarchy. I really think subpoena power should be used. That’s the only way we’re ever going to get where we’re going to actually believe what we see.”

A spokeswoman for Raoul said Friday the meeting Aug. 7 at Raoul’s Thompson Center office was “productive” and the two “discussed a variety of issues that have been important throughout the investigation.”

Cupich asked for the meeting, she said.

An archdiocese spokeswoman was not available for comment.

Raoul’s predecessor, Lisa Madigan, who began the investigation into the Catholic church last August, also never used her subpoena power.

She did speak with Cupich several times on the phone, but never had a face-to-face meeting with him.

In December, Madigan released a preliminary report that tallied 500 priests accused of sex crimes in Illinois, a number much higher than previously acknowledged. At that time, the church had publicly identified 185 clergy with credible accusations of child abuse.

Madigan acknowledged it was not clear whether all of the newly unearthed allegations were credible. But she noted in many instances the church did very little to try to determine their validity.

Madigan’s investigation was passed to Raoul when he was sworn into office in January. His office hopes to release an updated report by the end of the summer, according to a source.

Madigan launched her probe after the release of a damning report by the Pennsylvania state attorney general that detailed how priests in that state — including several who’d previously worked in Illinois — had for decades raped children, and how bishops covered those crimes up, sometimes by transferring culprits.

Cupich’s meeting with Raoul came one day before the latest accusation of priest sex abuse was made public.

On Aug. 8, the archdiocese announced that it had asked the Rev. George Clements, who is retired, “to step aside from ministry” pending the outcome of an investigation into an abuse claim. The archdiocese said the alleged abuse happened in 1974 during Clements’ 22-year tenure as pastor of Holy Angels Parish in Bronzeville.