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The Illinois attorney general released a report Tuesday finding that almost 2,000 children suffered sexual abuse by 451 Catholic clergy between 1950 and 2019.
“It is my hope that this report will shine light both on those who violated their positions of power and trust to abuse innocent children, and on the men in church leadership who covered up that abuse,” Kwame Raoul said in a statement. “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.”
As the attorney general's statement appears to acknowledge, state law limits how long after an alleged crime a suspect can be charged, meaning many of these allegations may never be heard in a court of law. So the question then turns to what exactly we are to do with this information.
And I think the clear answer is to use it as a compass of sorts, helping inform us where child sexual abuse is — and isn’t — likely to occur. The Illinois report adds to the thousands of previously reported incidents of child sexual abuse by clergy in conservative-leaning religious institutions over the past few decades. This includes last year’s report from Southern Baptist Convention leaders on allegations of widespread sexual abuse within the ultraconservative denomination.
By comparison, there have been no credible reports, to my knowledge, of child sexual abuse at drag shows. And, of course, I’m only making the comparison here because many conservatives — including religious leaders in the Catholic Church and the Southern Baptist Convention — falsely equate drag shows or LGBTQ people with sexual perversion. In response, Republican lawmakers are pushing measures that bar minors from attending drag shows.
Will there now be a widespread push to bar children from churches given the thousands of reported sexual abuse incidents nationwide? Don’t bet on it.
The numbers don’t lie: America’s children seem at far more risk in some places of worship than they would be at a drag show.