Feds to all U.S. dioceses: Preserve your records

By Peter Smith
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
October 26, 2018

U.S. Attorney William McSwain of Philadelphia has asked all of the nation’s Catholic dioceses and similar institutions to preserve any records related to personnel and the sexual abuse of children.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops confirmed Friday receiving the Oct. 9 letter from Mr. McSwain, who heads the Department of Justice’s Eastern District of Pennsylvania, based in Philadelphia.

The letter asks the conference to preserve abuse-related documents and to ask all of the nation’s dioceses to do the same.

“We have transmitted the U.S. Attorney’s letter at his request and in the spirit of cooperation with law enforcement,” said a statement from the bishops conference Friday morning.

Pennsylvania’s eight Catholic dioceses have confirmed receiving subpoenas from Mr. McSwain’s office.

The letter indicates a potential nationwide scope of interest.

“This office is investigating possible violations of federal law,” begins Mr. McSwain’s letter, which was first reported by Whispers in the Loggia, an insider-sourced Catholic blog,

Two other U.S. attorney’s offices, in Buffalo, N.Y., and Washington, D.C., are also gathering information on their local dioceses.

More than a dozen state attorneys general are launching similar investigations.

The probes follow the explosive Aug. 14 Pennsylvania grand jury report into six Catholic dioceses, including Pittsburgh and Greensburg.  It accused more than 300 priests of abusing more than 1,000 children across seven decades.

Mr. McSwain’s letter was sent to Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the bishops conference and archbishop of Galveston-Houston, Texas.

In the letter, Mr. McSwain asked that it be sent to all dioceses and similar jurisdictions such as Eastern Catholic eparchies. Pertinent documents should not be destroyed, discarded, deleted or altered, it says.

But he said his office is not yet asking for the documents to be turned over.

Spokespersons for three archdioceses, Chicago, Detroit and Louisville, have confirmed receiving the document-retention letter. All said their archdioceses have not received subpoenas.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops does not have authority over dioceses, though its mission is to  coordinate the work and voice of the bishops through such things as programs and policy statements.



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