News

More states pursuing investigations into Catholic dioceses

Written by Ed Mahon/The York Daily Record | Aug 27, 2018 11:15 AM
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(File photo by Chris Dunn/The York Daily Record)

Prosecutors in Illinois, Florida, Missouri and New York are considering or pursuing investigations into Catholic dioceses.

The moves come on the heels of a Pennsylvania grand jury report that described more than 300 "predator priests" and 1,000 victims in six Roman Catholic dioceses in the state.

Members of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests have said formal investigations are necessary in every state.

"We find in Pennsylvania that the church hierarchy will only report child sex abuse by ...  clergy when forced to by outside agencies like a grand jury," the organization said in a news release.

In many states, prosecutors don't have the same authority to convene the same type of statewide grand jury that was used in Pennsylvania. But prosecutors are looking into partnerships.

Here's a look.

Florida

"In Florida, jurisdiction is different, and these matters are typically handled by the 20 elected state attorneys, however, my Statewide Prosecutor is reaching out to all of the state attorneys to explore the matter," Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi said in a statement in response to questions from the York Daily Record/Sunday News.

Illinois

On Aug. 23, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan put out a statement, saying that the "Catholic Church has a moral obligation to provide its parishioners and the public a complete and accurate accounting of all sexually inappropriate behavior involving priests in Illinois."

The Pennsylvania grand jury report identified at least seven priests with connection to Illinois, Madigan said.

She said the Chicago Archdiocese agreed to met with her. 

"I plan to reach out to the other dioceses in Illinois to have the same conversation and expect the bishops will agree and cooperate fully. If not, I will work with states' attorneys and law enforcement throughout Illinois to investigate," Madigan said.

New York

On Aug. 16, a spokeswoman for the office said Attorney General Barbara Underwood directed her criminal division to reach out to local district attorneys to establish a potential partnership. 

Those local attorneys are the ones who have the power to convene a grand jury for this type of investigation, said office spokeswoman Amy Spitalnick.

"Victims in New York deserve to be heard as well," said Spitalnick. 

The president of the District Attorneys Association of the State of New York has expressed support for such a partnership, according to the New York Daily News.

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Josh Hawley (Jason Rosenbaum/AP)

Missouri

On Aug. 23, Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley launched an independent review of the Archdiocese of St. Louis. 

And the Bishop for the archdiocese, Robert J. Carlson, invited Hawley's office to review its files. Carlson said that while he has been in the archdiocese, it "has always taken the protection of children and youth as one of our highest priorities."

In a letter to  to the archdiocese, Carlson said he anticipated that prosecutors would review documents and interview potential victims and witnesses to acts of alleged abuse.

The website for the Missouri Attorney General has a special section for clergy abuse resources that, among other things, says the "jurisdiction to formally investigate alleged criminal activity of this nature lies with local law enforcement, not the Attorney General."

This story comes to us through a partnership between WITF and The York Daily Record. 

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