Justice department opens investigation into Catholic church in Pennsylvania

Marsha Scott
October 21, 2018

The Justice Department has issued subpoenas to at least five of the eight dioceses in Pennsylvania as part of a federal probe into child sexual abuse inside the Roman Catholic Church.

"The Diocese of Pittsburgh has received the subpoena from the U.S. Department of Justice and will cooperate fully with any and all investigations of the sexual abuse of minors by clergy in Pennsylvania", the Rev. Nicholas S. Vaskov, a diocese spokesman, said Thursday.

Two people familiar with the investigation told the Associated Press that prosecutors last week served subpoenas on dioceses across the state.

The Chicago diocese has implemented a "stringent monitoring program of clergy with substantiated cases of sexual abuse against them", the statement said.

There's no sign the Buffalo probe is related to the investigation launched by McSwain, who only took office in late June, or that the Justice Department wants to pursue a national review of clergy abuse complaints.

"This is a monumental moment for clergy sexual victims everywhere", said Mitchell Garabedian, the Boston-based plaintiffs' lawyer who played a major role in uncovering the scandal in the Boston Archdiocese in 2002.

On Wednesday night, the state Senate adjourned without voting on a measure, prompted by the grand jury report, that would create a brief window for victims of childhood sexual abuse to sue their abusers, and institutions that may have shielded them, even after the civil statute of limitations had passed.

A representative for McSwain declined to comment, as did a justice department spokeswoman.

A Northern California Catholic bishop released the names of 15 priests found to have been credibly accused of sexually abusing children within the diocese.

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The action by the federal government, which has rarely pursued such inquiries, comes after a Pennsylvania grand jury in August concluded that church leaders protected more than 300 "predator priests" in six dioceses across the state for decades.

Four survivors of sexual abuse by priests filed a public nuisance and conspiracy lawsuit against every diocese in the state Thursday, asking a judge to order the release of all records related to every abusive priest in IL.

The scope of the Justice Department's investigation is unclear, including whether it could cover other states in the country. The report accused 301 priests in Pennsylvania of sexually abusing more than 1,000 children over 70 years.

Previous grand juries reported similar findings in the Altoona-Johnstown diocese as well as the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

McSwain also demanded that bishops turn over any evidence that anyone in their ranks instructed anyone not to contact police.

The US Attorney in Philadelphia reportedly has begun issuing subpoenas.

The anonymous plaintiff also alleges he was sexually abused by Monsignor Charles Beebe in 1981 and that the accusation was ignored by Bishop Daniel Jenky of the Diocese of Peoria. Until the Pennsylvania report, investigations by grand juries and attorneys general only looked at single dioceses or counties. He served most of his sentence before the conviction was overturned in 2016 by the state Supreme Court.

In his August announcement, however, Shapiro said the statute of limitations was a crucial consideration in the "systematic coverup" by senior church officials in Pennsylvania and at the Vatican. The statute of limitations law in Pennsylvania allows child abuse victims to file criminal allegations only until they are 50 years old.

Along with the names of priests accused of sexual misconduct with minors, the diocese will release brief descriptions of allegations and when they occurred, Soto said.

Other reports by MaliBehiribAe

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