US opens landmark federal investigation into Catholic Church abuse
• Archdiocese of Philadelphia received a subpoena issued by a federal grand jury
• Several California dioceses release names of 15 priests accused of sexually abusing children
The US has for the first time opened a federal investigation into abuse committed by Catholic clergy, issuing a subpoena to dioceses in Pennsylvania two months after the publication of a report on decades of sexual abuse in the state.
The Archdiocese of Philadelphia confirmed on its website on Thursday that it had “received a subpoena issued by a federal grand jury, which requires the production of certain documents”.
“The archdiocese will cooperate with the United States Department of Justice in this matter,” it said.
The Diocese of Greensburg, in western Pennsylvania, also confirmed that it has been subpoenaed, something that was “no surprise considering the horrific misconduct detailed in the statewide grand jury report”.
“Survivors, parishioners and the public want to see proof that every diocese has taken sweeping, decisive and impactful action to make children safer,” it said.
Six other dioceses in the state could not immediately be reached for comment, but US media reported that five confirmed they had also received federal subpoenas and were ready to cooperate with investigators.
The federal prosecutor’s office in Philadelphia, which is in charge of the investigation, said that “the US Department of Justice generally does not confirm, deny or otherwise comment on the existence or non-existence of an investigation.”
The investigation comes after the release of a sweeping US grand jury report in August that revealed credible allegations against more than 300 suspected 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.
The report is thought to be the most comprehensive to date into abuse in the US church.
In San Jose, California, the Roman Catholic Diocese released the names of 15 priests accused of sexually abusing children, becoming the latest of several California dioceses to release such lists in recent weeks.
Of the 15 priests, nine are dead and the rest have been permanently banned from the ministry. Four of the men had been convicted of sex crimes. All worked in Santa Clara County.
In a letter released with the list, Bishop Patrick J. McGrath called the sexual abuse of children “an appalling crime and a sin.”
“There can no longer be a culture of secrecy in the Church, but one of transparency and accountability,” McGrath wrote. “Our work will not be complete until all of those who have been harmed have received assistance in healing and until the evil of child sexual abuse has been eradicated from society.”
The San Diego Diocese updated its public list in mid-September. The Archdiocese of Los Angeles and the Diocese of Orange are reviewing their lists of credibly accused priests — which were last updated in 2008 and 2016, respectively — to see whether any names should be added. The San Bernardino Diocese released the names of 34 priests on October 8.
The list released by the San Jose Diocese did not describe the cases in detail. The reported allegations occurred from 1961 through the early 2000s.
The men on the list are those who have admitted to the offence, been criminally convicted or who have been deemed credibly accused by a diocese review board.
More names could later be added to the list, according to the diocese.
In November, Kathleen McChesney, a former FBI executive assistant director, will head an independent team that will audit priest personnel files, McGrath said in his letter.
“Should additional allegations surface during the investigation, those names will be added to the list that I am providing today,” he said.
Agence France-Presse and Associated Press