Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring recently announced that he was opening an investigation into the two Catholic dioceses in his state, to determine if there has been any child sexual abuse and/or a cover-up of that abuse.
This follows in the wake of the Pennsylvania grand jury report, which was released back in August and detailed abuse reports involving over 1,000 children and 300 predator priests in six of the state’s eight dioceses. The federal government also recently announced that they were opening a new probe into alleged Catholic priest abuse in seven of the state’s eight dioceses.
Virginia Joins Other States in Investigating Catholic Church Abuse
According to the Washington Post, Herring launched the investigation in response to the Pennsylvania grand jury report, telling the post that reading it made him feel “sick.” He added in a statement that
“we shouldn’t assume the behavior and the problems are limited just to Pennsylvania or to one diocese. If there has been abuse or cover-up in Virginia like there was in Pennsylvania, I want to know about it, I want to root it out, and I want to help survivors get justice and get on a path to healing.”
At least twelve other states have already announced investigations into the Catholic Church, bringing the total to 13. Other states that already have investigations underway include Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, and Vermont.
Reports indicate that Kentucky may join them, but Kentucky law does not allow its attorney general to convene a grand jury investigation. Two Kentucky lawmakers have stated their intentions to introduce legislation that would open the door to such an investigation.
Washington D.C.’s Attorney General Karl Racine has also launched a similar investigation. More specifically, his office is looking into whether the Archdiocese used donations or other funds in a cover-up effort. Victims can report their abuse via an online form here. The U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia has also launched a hotline for survivors at 202-252-7008, or by email at USADC.ReportClergyAbuse@usdoj.gov.
Virginia’s two dioceses are located in Richmond and Arlington. The bishops have already begun internal investigations, and have said they will publish any credible accusations when the investigations are complete. The Virginia attorney general’s office has set up a new hotline for clergy abuse reports at 1-833-454-9064.
Federal Government Getting Involved for the First Time
The federal government’s probe into the alleged abuse in Pennsylvania is the first ever launched into Catholic abuse by the U.S. Justice Department. All previous investigations have been managed by state and local authorities. The Justice Department has sent subpoenas to the dioceses seeking files and records to help determine if leaders violated federal law, including the federal Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations statute (RICO).
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