‘Fight for 500,’ survivors, advocates launch initiative to expose Illinois predator priests

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Several attorneys and survivors of alleged sexual abuse by Catholic priests launched a new initiative at a news conference in Chicago Thursday.

The “Fight for 500” initiative aims to expose what the group calls predator priests in Illinois.

“I call the catholic bishops of Illinois the fugitives from the truth,” said Jeff Anderson, attorney. 

“The Catholic church is my church home,” said Cindy Yesko, Priest Abuse Survivor. “It’s where I belong and I have a right to feel safe there as does every other member.”

The plaintiffs and their attorneys are asking for a full disclosure of the names and all related files and documents of over 500 alleged sexual abusers that they say Illinois Catholic bishops continue to protect and conceal. 

The number was reported by the Illinois Attorney General as part of her investigation into clergy sexual abuse. The report came out last month.

One of the attorneys, Jeff Anderson, said they will publish their own report by Feb. 11 with the identifies of all the offenders they have uncovered who have been credibly accused of sexually abusing minors. 

“We’re here to fight for the 500,” said Anderson. “We’re here to fight for the 500 that have been identified as the number of clergy offenders who the Catholic bishops…these Catholic bishops in Illinois…know about who have not disclosed.” 

They want to encourage other survivors to come forward, especially if they see the name of their abuser published in the report. 

“When you don’t have information and you don’t have the truth, and it’s not transparent, you can’t protect the children,” said Yesko. “We need a comprehensive list to feel safe again.”

They also want all Illinois Dioceses to provide complete disclosure of all religious order and deceased priests who have offended in their dioceses. 

WMBD reached out the Diocese’s of Peoria for comment and has not heard back. 

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