Bishops from across Illinois joined together in Springfield Thursday to voice their concerns about potential changes to state abortion laws. The Catholic bishops held a press conference about the issue, which marks the first media event Peoria Bishop Daniel Jenky was present since new allegations of priest sex abuse came to light in the Peoria Diocese.
After numerous requests for interviews via phone, e-mail, and in person about sexual abuse allegations in the Catholic Church. Again, this is the first time there has been a press event where Bishop Daniel Jenky was present, and available for questioning.
The most recent time we reached out about this issue was March 20th, when we asked his office for an interview three times, only to receive a written statement with no quote from the bishop himself.
In Thursday’s press conference, our reporter Kaitlin Pearson, asked for transparency about this issue within the Peoria Diocese.
Kaitlin Pearson, Heart of Illinois ABC: “Bishop Jenky, do you believe you’ve been transparent when it comes to alleged priest sex abuse within the Peoria Diocese?”
Bob Gilligan, Executive Dir. Catholic Conference of Illinois: “We’re going to try to stick to the issue at hand. Bishop Jenky as you can see it’s a little hard to get the mic so we’re going to try and stick to this particular question, so if we could take anything else?”
Pearson tried asking another question later in the press conference, directed at Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago.
Kaitlin Pearson: “Cardinal, since you are speaking about it, since you are speaking for bishop Jenky then what is the Catholic Church doing to prevent these things from continuing to happen within the Catholic Church when it comes to priest sex abuse?”
Cardinal Blase Cupich, Archbishop of Chicago: “Yes, again we will be happy to discuss that issue and any other issue you have, but we want to put the focus on these two bills today.”
The Archbishop and bishops would not answer questions about sexual abuse allegations during the press conference. When Pearson tried to ask Jenky some questions following the event, he said, “You’re clearly trying to do one of those ‘gotcha’ things.We are here to express our opinions on these two bills…” Jenky then directed us to their website for information on their response to this issue.
After that our other reporter, Kyle Beachy, approached Bishop Jenky before he left the Capitol.
Kyle Beachy, Heart of Illinois ABC: “Do you think you’ve been transparent about the issue of sexual abuse?”
Bishop Daniel Jenky: “Yes, go on the internet and you can see everything we know going back to the 1870’s.”
Kyle Beachy: “Is there any reason in particular why you haven’t agreed to do an interview with us?”
Bishop Daniel Jenky: “Because no one’s asked.”
Kyle Beachy: “Would you agree to sit down with us and do an interview? We are with 25 news in Peoria.”
Bishop Daniel Jenky: “Why not call my office in a normal way civilized people do?”
Kyle Beachy: “I believe we have done that and that’s why we’re here today.”
After that interaction, Bishop Jenky’s staff said they would get in touch with Heart of Illinois ABC about an interview opportunity.
These questions come after a recent report from the law firm, Jeff Anderson and Associates, out of Chicago. Their findings name 395 priests and lay people publicly accused of sexual abuse in Illinois. Of those, 39 names were associated with the Peoria Diocese. The Diocese has acknowledged 26 of those as being “credibly accused.” No one from the Diocese has done an on camera interview with us following the release of this report, or in response to the Illinois Attorney General’s report on this matter.
The AG’s Office reports more than 500 priests and clergy members identified by former Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan as the targets of sexual abuse allegations statewide.
For transparency, below is a raw clip of Kyle Beachy and Kaitlin Pearson’s interactions with Bishop Daniel Jenky after Thursday’s press conference.
To read more about the abortion legislation Illinois Catholic bishops and others spoke out against today, click here.