In Pa.'s wake, the floodgate of clergy abuse investigations opens | Editorial

September 07, 2018

[with video]

It's not often that Pennsylvania finds itself in the vanguard of much of anything.

But three weeks after a nearly 900-page grand jury report detailing decades of sexual abuse in Pennsylvania's Roman Catholic dioceses became public, prosecutors in other states are taking notice and launching probes of their own.

On Thursday, attorneys general in New York and New Jersey announced they planned to initiate investigations of clergy sex abuse in their states. 

New York is moving forward with a civil investigation to determine if dioceses and other church entities covered up allegations of child sexual abuse. The New York attorney general's office is also partnering with district attorneys on possible criminal investigations.

"The Pennsylvania grand jury report shined a light on incredibly disturbing and depraved acts by Catholic clergy, assisted by a culture of secrecy and cover ups in the dioceses," New York Attorney General Barbara D. Underwood said in a statement.  "Victims in New York deserve to be heard as well - and we are going to do everything in our power to bring them the justice they deserve."

New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal announced the creation of a task force to investigate allegations of child sexual abuse involving priests. New Jersey prosecutors will also examine whether Catholic dioceses adhered to agreements with law enforcement to disclose allegations of abuse.

"I was deeply troubled to read the allegations contained in last month's Pennsylvania grand jury report," Grewal said in a statement.

"The report revealed that sexual assaults on children - and efforts to cover up such assaults - were far more widespread in Pennsylvania than we ever thought possible," Grewal continued. "We owe it to the people of New Jersey to find out whether the same thing happened here. If it did, we will take action against those responsible."

In an interview with the PennLive/Patriot-News Editorial Board earlier this week, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, whose office released the grand jury report, said he's heard from more than a dozen prosecutors around the country who are interested in launching investigations of their own. 

While prosecutors in other states don't have the same tools available to them as Pennsylvania did (In New York, for instance, only county district attorneys, not the attorney general, can convene grand juries), he urged them to seek other avenues of investigation.

Shapiro told the Editorial Board that Catholic bishops in Pennsylvania held many documents in secret archives outlining the cover-up of abuse. He said other prosecutors should try to obtain similar records. 

"If I were a law enforcement leader in another jurisdiction, I would want to get my hands on these documents real quickly, before they weren't in the secret archives," Shapiro said.



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