Parson Should Grant AG Subpoena Power in Church Probe
Jefferson City News Tribune
October 4, 2018
Gov. Mike Parson should add teeth to Attorney General Josh Hawley’s investigation into the Catholic Church by authorizing Hawley to use subpoena powers in his probe.
The request was made recently by SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, which has crusaded for the last three decades to support victims and hold offenders in the church accountable.
Hawley announced Aug. 23 he was starting an independent investigation into allegations of sexual abuse by members of the clergy in the Catholic Archdiocese of St. Louis. As we recently reported, Hawley asked that other dioceses in the state voluntarily allow his office to examine them.
Credit Bishop W. Shawn McKnight of the Jefferson City Diocese: Hours after Hawley’s announcement, McKnight invited the AG’s office to review the local diocese.
McKnight seems to want to confront the problem head-on, and we appreciate his openness and his willingness to cooperate. Not all past church officials throughout the U.S. have been as transparent.
The Missouri probe comes in the wake of a Pennsylvania grand jury report showing bishops and other Catholic leaders in that state covered up child sexual abuse by more than 300 priests over a period of 70 years.
Hawley has said he doesn’t have the power to compel sworn testimony — to subpoena witnesses — and he can use subpoena power if he is ordered to by the governor or if he works with a local prosecutor.
David Clohessy, former director of SNAP, said Hawley is relying almost exclusively on the voluntary production of church records.
That might be all he needs, considering McKnight’s openness, but like Clohessy said, a thorough investigation must rely on sworn testimony, church officials’ testimony under oath and the subpoena power to retrieve all the church records.
Completing such a thorough investigation is the right thing to do for possible victims and their advocates, but it’s also the right thing for the Catholic Church and its followers.
We believe the Roman Catholic Church is filled with good, God-fearing leaders who strive to lead their followers to Christ. However, because of the actions of a few, the church won’t be able to move forward properly until we all have a full accounting of the past.