Published: Fri, October 19, 2018

Justice department opens investigation into Catholic church in Pennsylvania

Justice department opens investigation into Catholic church in Pennsylvania

Seven of the eight dioceses in the state, Philadelphia, Erie, Harrisburg, Scranton, Pittsburgh, Greensburg and Allentown, all said they had received federal grand jury subpoenas from the US Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania requesting documents.

The U.S. Department of Justice has served subpoenas to several dioceses in the state of Pennsylvania, in what is believed to be a statewide move by federal authorities to investigate sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy.

A spokeswoman for Erie says the diocese's counsel is working with the DOJ.

Three men and one woman who say they were sexually abused by priests decades ago filed a lawsuit Thursday against every diocese in IL for an alleged ongoing scheme to cover up sexual assault by priests.

A sweeping USA grand jury report revealed credible allegations against more than 300 predator priests and identified over 1,000 victims of child sex abuse covered up for decades by the Catholic Church in the state of Pennsylvania.

Now federal prosecutors are bringing the Justice Department's resources to bear, according to two people who were not authorized to discuss the investigation publicly and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

The subpoenas were first reported by The Associated Press, which said investigators sought to examine organizational charts, insurance coverage, clergy assignments and confidential documents stored in what has become known as the church's "Secret Archives".

An 884-page report made public in August by Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro after a two-year investigation contained graphic examples of children being groomed and sexually abused by clergymen.

However, the report said only two priests could be charged because of time limits on legal action for such crimes.

The files requested of at least one diocese date back only to 2001, the official said. "Its counsel is in conversation with the Department of Justice". The sexual abuse of children and young people is an appalling crime and a sin.

The Archdiocese of Chicago said in a statement that while officials had not reviewed the lawsuit, the diocese has in recent years taken significant steps to address the issue, including posting the names of priests who have been credibly accused of child sexual abuse on its website. The dioceses of Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Erie, Allentown, Harrisburg and Greensburg all issued statements saying they had received subpoenas and meant to cooperate with federal investigators.

A representative for McSwain declined to comment, as did a Justice Department spokesperson.

Soto said the diocese planned to hire former Federal Bureau of Investigation agent Kathleen McChesney, a consultant who has worked with other dioceses to do similar reviews. "The federal government has so far been utterly silent on the Catholic cases", she added. More than 100 of the priests are dead, and many others are retired or have been dismissed from the priesthood or put on leave.

Earlier this month Cardinal Wuerl announced his resignation as Washington's archbishop so that the church could "focus on healing and future". He was accused of helping to protect some child-molesting priests when he was bishop of Pittsburgh from 1988 to 2006.

The report is thought to be the most comprehensive to date into abuse in the United States church. It found that church leaders systematically hid evidence of wrongdoing. Lawmakers ended the session Wednesday without taking action.

Shapiro declined to comment Thursday on the federal investigation.

According to The Washington Post, the decision to open the investigation was made by federal prosecutors in the US attorney's office in Philadelphia and was not a directive from Washington, D.C. A jury convicted him in 2012.

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