Editorial: Clergy abuse probe should be top priority for Missouri’s next attorney general

Post Dispatch

December 23, 2018

An investigation by the Illinois attorney general into child sexual assault in the Catholic Church echoes what’s been found in other states: a widespread, decades-long pattern of abuse and coverup involving hundreds of priests.

Missouri’s own investigation continues, with victims’ advocates complaining that outgoing Attorney General Josh Hawley hasn’t been aggressive enough. With Hawley heading to the U.S. Senate, his replacement, Eric Schmitt, has an opportunity to start on the right foot by making the investigation a top priority.

America was stunned this year when an investigation in Pennsylvania determined that some 300 priests had abused roughly 1,000 children over a 70-year period, as the church actively covered the abusers’ tracks. Those findings spawned similar investigations in other states, including Missouri and Illinois.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan announced her office’s findings last week, and it was, again, stunning. As the Post-Dispatch’s Nassim Benchaabane reported, Madigan’s investigators uncovered allegations of sexual abuse against at least 500 clergy that the church knew about but never made public.

In many cases, they found, the church declined to even investigate allegations. Some abuse survivors weren’t told that others had been victimized by the same clergy members. There were also instances in which church officials used details of the victims’ personal lives to discredit them.

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