Justice Dept. opens probe into child sex abuse in Pennsylvania clergy

Justice Dept. opens probe into child sex abuse in Pennsylvania clergy”

The subpoenas follow a scathing state grand jury report in August that detailed hundreds of allegations of children being sexually abused by 300 "predator priests" in dioceses across Pennsylvania.

The Department of Justice has launched an investigation of child sex abuse within Pennsylvania's Roman Catholic Church, sending subpoenas to dioceses across the state seeking private files and records to explore the possibility that priests and bishops violated federal law in cases that go back decades, NPR has learned.

Representatives from the Dioceses of Pittsburgh, Erie, Harrisburg and Allentown told CBS News they had received federal subpoenas and will cooperate with the investigation.

"The Archdiocese of Philadelphia has received a subpoena issued by a federal grand jury, which requires the production of certain documents".

The report resulted in charges being filed against only two priests.

"It's groundbreaking if we're going to see one of the U.S. attorneys pursuing the Catholic cases", said Marci Hamilton, a University of Pennsylvania professor and chief executive of Child USA, a nonprofit think-tank focused on preventing child abuse. One obvious issue is whether leaders within the church crossed state lines to conspire to cover up crimes, which is why the subpoena to the Buffalo diocese is big news.

Dr. Alex McFarland and Christopher Hale on the implications of the sweeping grand jury report about priest sexual abuse in Pennsylvania and how the Catholic Church can begin to make amends.

There was no indication the Justice Department is planning a more ambitious and expensive investigation of clergy abuse nationwide.

Senior church officials, including bishops, monsignors and others, knew about the abuse committed by priests, but covered it up to avoid scandal, criminal charges against priests and monetary damages to the dioceses.

State-led investigations into clerical sexual abuse are now underway in several states including Maryland, Michigan, Nebraska, New Jersey, and Missouri. "For decades", the grand jury wrote in its report. More than 100 of the priests are dead, and many others are retired or have been dismissed from the priesthood or put on leave.

There's no clear sign that the Justice Department plans to broaden the probe past Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who oversaw the state probe, declined to comment on the federal investigation.

"Many hearts have been broken, particularly those of the victims and their loved ones", Persico said, promising to contact police with all reports of sexual misconduct and co-operate with any investigations.

The Pennsylvania report followed the resignation of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington, who is accused of sexually abusing seminarians and minors.

Church leaders opposed the change, warning it would cripple their ability to fund Catholic charities and enrich lawyers. Talks on such legislation in the General Assembly have so far failed to reach a deal, and state lawmakers' two-year session is nearing its end. Many accused priests have already died.

The difficulty of making charges stick against higher-ups in the church was illustrated when the Philadelphia district attorney's office brought a landmark coverup case in 2011 against Monsignor William Lynn, a longtime aide to two Philadelphia cardinals. The orders were presented to church officials last week, the AP says. He spent three years in and out of prison as his conviction was twice overturned by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

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