Pennsylvania report on Catholic clergy sex abuse prompts investigations in other states
(CNN) — Last week’s grand jury report detailing abuse allegations against Catholic clergy members might have dealt only with six Pennsylvania archdioceses, but it has already prompted other states to open their own inquiries of dioceses across the country.
Pennsylvania’s report detailed documents from those Catholic dioceses showing more than 300 “predator priests” have been credibly accused of sexually abusing more than 1,000 child victims over seven decades, reigniting an international firestorm that is consuming the church on several continents.
“For many of us, those earlier stories happened someplace else, someplace away,” the report said. “Now we know the truth: it happened everywhere.”
Other law enforcement agencies have taken notice, and several have opened inquiries into allegations of abuse by clergy.
Here’s a look at these ongoing investigations.
On Thursday, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan announced she plans to meet with the Chicago Archdiocese after at least seven priests with connections to Illinois were identified in the Pennsylvania grand jury report.
“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,” Madigan said in a statement.
The Chicago Archdiocese has agreed to meet, Madigan said.
“I plan to reach out to the other dioceses in Illinois and have the same conversation and expect the bishops will agree and cooperate fully,” she added. “If not, I will work with states’ attorneys and law enforcement throughout Illinois to investigate.”
In a statement sent to CNN, the Chicago Archdiocese said it was looking forward to the meeting with Madigan, which has not been scheduled.
“Since 2002, the Archdiocese of Chicago has reported all abuse allegations to the proper civil authorities,” the statement noted, including to the Department of Children and Family Services for cases involving children.
The diocese’s website has also listed the names of clergy with “substantiated claims of abuse against them,” the statement said.
Missouri’s attorney general said on Thursday his office had launched an independent review of the St. Louis Archdiocese and allegations of abuse by clergy “for the purpose of public transparency and accountability.” The Archdiocese has agreed to cooperate.
“Victims of sexual abuse of any kind deserve to have their voices heard and Missourians deserve to know if this misconduct has occurred in their communities,” Attorney General Josh Hawley said in a statement. “By inviting this independent review, the Archdiocese is demonstrating a willingness to be transparent and expose any potential wrongdoing.”
In a letter to Hawley, Archbishop Robert J. Carlson confirmed the archdiocese would cooperate with the review, saying it “has always taken the protection of children and youth as one of our highest priorities.”
“To this end we have always cooperated with law enforcement in any investigation into these matters and we will continue to do so.”
The letter also noted that Carlson had a former member of the FBI review the Archdiocese’s “safe environment protocols” for children.
“She found our protocols to be appropriate and robust,” Carlson said.
In Wyoming, a local police department said this week it had reopened an investigation into allegations of sexual abuse by an unnamed church official, stemming from his time in the diocese from the 1970s through the 1990s.
The Cheyenne Police Department didn’t name the “church official,” but last month, Cheyenne Bishop Steven Biegler said the diocese had learned of “credible and substantiated” allegations that Joseph Hart, a retired Wyoming bishop, had sexually abused two boys.
The investigation of alleged abuse was opened in March, Biegler said in a statement. The police department didn’t announce its investigation until this week, when it asked for victims or witnesses to come forward and share any information.
Hart was a bishop and auxiliary bishop in the Cheyenne diocese between 1976 and 2001, according to Biegler’s statement. Hart has “consistently denied all allegations that he sexually abused minors,” and has said he would cooperate with the investigation.
“I am confident these processes will, in the end, come to a similar conclusion,” Hart said in July.
But an outside investigator retained late last year concluded that the earlier district attorney’s investigation was “flawed,” Biegler said, and “substantial new evidence” suggested that Hart had sexually abused two boys in Wyoming.