For former Pittsburgh prosecutor, the new inquiry into clergy abuse is personal

Religion News Service/USA Today

November 29, 2018

The suspicious looks were one thing, but the whispers are what David Hickton remembers from the Sunday mornings two years ago when he would rise from his pew at SS. Simon & Jude to receive Holy Communion.

“I could hear the ‘tsk, tsk, tsk’ while I was going up the aisle,” he says. “Others were muttering, ‘Of all the nerve!’”

Hickton – then the chief federal prosecutor in western Pennsylvania known for his landmark indictment in 2014 of Chinese military hackers for stealing trade secrets from state institutions such as U.S. Steel – had just revealed his new target: the Catholic Church.

The former altar boy from working-class Castle Shannon put the full weight of the federal government behind an incendiary theory that the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese should be viewed as an interstate criminal enterprise – akin to the Mafia – based on allegations that for years, up to 50 priests had abused hundreds of children.

The inquiry, which cast him as a traitor to some in his own congregation, was resolved far short of a dramatic courtroom confrontation when the federal government and the diocese agreed last year to create an outside panel to guard child safety.

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