Seton Hall students warned against insulting future Catholic priests

Pauline Gross
October 21, 2018

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.

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia also confirmed to Religion News Service that it is aware of the inquiry and is cooperating with investigators - including handing over documents.

The grand jury subpoenas also seek documents stored in "Secret Archives", "Historical Archives" or "Confidential Files", and records related to the dioceses' organizational charts, finances, insurance coverage, clergy assignments and treatment of priests, according to the people who spoke to the AP.

"That the Department of Justice is launching this investigation appears to be an inherent acknowledgement of what was done to transfer known or suspected perpetrators over state lines, creating countless instances of preventable sexual abuse of children", Dolce said in a statement.

The other priest charged in the investigation, the Rev. John Thomas Sweeney of the Greensburg diocese, pleaded guilty to indecent assault this summer and is awaiting his sentencing.

The U.S. Justice Department has opened an investigation of child sexual abuse inside the Roman Catholic Church in Pennsylvania. The 18-month investigation under Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro uncovered sexual abuse on a vast scale, detailing some 1,000 cases of abuse by 300 priests dating back 70 years. So far, Wuerl, who has denied any wrongdoing, is the most prominent church leader to fall in the latest scandal.

Hundreds of priests were said to have molested more than 1,000 children - and possibly many more - since the 1940s, and senior church officials allegedly covered up the abuse, according to the report.

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The report went on to assert that church leaders were more interested in safeguarding the church and the priests than defending victims. "For decades", the grand jury wrote in its report.

Pennsylvania Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, a Republican and ally of the Church, had been pushing a compromise proposal that would have temporarily lifted the statute of limitations so that older victims could sue individual priests, but not the Church itself. However, because some of the allegations are decades old, numerous accused are now deceased.

"The Diocese of Erie confirms it has received a subpoena", said Mary Solberg, Associate Director of Communications for the Diocese of Erie. The grand jurors said that the rest of the cases were too old to be prosecuted, because of statutes of limitations. The Pennsylvania report followed the resignation of Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington, who is accused of sexually abusing seminarians and minors.

The difficulty of making charges stick against higher-ups in the church was illustrated when the Philadelphia district attorney's office brought a landmark cover-up case in 2011 against Monsignor William Lynn, a longtime aide to two Philadelphia cardinals. Lawmakers ended the session Wednesday without taking action. Many accused priests have already died.

Church leaders opposed the change, warning it would cripple their ability to fund Catholic charities and enrich lawyers.

"Federal law enforcement has been awfully silent on the Catholic abuse problem, and it's about time", said Anne Barrett-Doyle, co-director of BishopAccountability.org, a US -based resource center that tracks cases of clerical abuse worldwide.

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