Pennsylvania Investigated Catholic Church Sex Abuse. Why Can't Kentucky?
By Caitlin McGlade
Louisville Courier Journal
September 25, 2018
Two Kentucky lawmakers say they will introduce legislation that would enable a sweeping statewide investigation of the Catholic Church.
The Legislature will decide next session whether to authorize special statewide grand juries like the one in Pennsylvania that recently exposed rampant sex crimes across six dioceses.
The Pennsylvania report, which found that church leaders protected more than 300 "predator priests," highlighted the need for action here, the Attorney General's office said.
Pennsylvania law allows its attorney general to convene statewide grand jury investigations while Kentucky's does not.
Jefferson County Democrats Jim Wayne and Jeffery Donohue said Tuesday they will pre-file a bill to fix that. Wayne is retiring so Donohue will carry it through the session that convenes in January.
Attorney General Andy Beshear said the move is needed not only for Catholic Church matters but to tackle any kind of crime spanning multiple jurisdictions — human trafficking, public corruption and drug trafficking, for example.
"For far too many Kentuckians, justice has eluded them," Beshear said.
Under the draft legislation, the Attorney General would need to petition the Supreme Court of Kentucky each time it wants to convene a special grand jury.
The chief justice would then appoint a supervising circuit court judge from one of the counties involved in the investigation for 180 days, with the possibility of a 90-day extension.
In response to Beshear's interest in launching a special grand jury, the Archdiocese said that "we have always cooperated with the authorities in our response to sexual abuse and will continue to do so."
The Louisville Archdiocese paid $25.7 million in the early 2000s to 240 people who said they were sexually abused by priests, religious brothers and church employees.
Archbishop Joseph Kurtz has said he wants to shine light on the issue and plans to release a report in October that details how the Archdiocese has handled sex crimes in the past and what steps still need to be taken to help the church and its parishioners heal.
Kurtz arrived to Louisville in 2007 and the archbishop who led the diocese then has since died.
But on Sept. 10 protesters at the Cathedral of Assumption in downtown Louisville said justice was not served.
The group urged the AG to investigate dioceses here and demanded the Archdiocese of Louisville take 16 steps to rectify the legacy of widespread abuse.
The protest was one of nine held around the nation after the release of Pennsylvania's grand jury report.
The local protesters, who included parishioners, victims, social workers and ex-Catholics, said both the Archdiocese of Louisville and the Catholic Church as a whole have failed to support victims of sex abuse and to hold accountable complicit church staff.
Michael Norris, who was molested by a Louisville priest as a child, said he was relieved to see Beshear taking action. Norris had written to Beshear about a month ago requesting an investigation.
“It’s great that they’re listening to the people,” he said. “They’re going to find filth like they did in Pennsylvania.”
Wayne said that as a Catholic, an investigation is one way to restore trust in an institution marred by crisis.
Good priests, bishops and others are “outraged at the sewage pit the Catholic Church is finding itself in right now,” he said.
“We cannot trust our leaders, and this is admitted by our leaders," he said. "What this legislation will do is give us an opportunity as a society to make sure that everything is known about the history of sex abuse in the Catholic Church.”
Beshear asked victims of abuse to call his office at 800-372-2551.