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DOJ begins probe of Catholic Church


After receiving a letter from the Freedom From Religion Foundation, as well as letters from victims’ rights groups, the Justice Department has launched a probe of the Roman Catholic clergy’s horrific sex abuse scandal.

“The U.S. Justice Department has opened an investigation of child sexual abuse inside the Roman Catholic Church in Pennsylvania, using subpoenas to demand confidential files and testimony from church leaders, according to two people familiar with the probe,” the Associated Press reported Oct. 10.

Then, on Oct. 26, the DOJ sent a request to every Catholic diocese in the United States not to destroy documents related to the handling of child sexual abuse, which signals  that the investigation could grow far more extensive.

FFRF had recently asked for a federal probe into the Church’s massive wrongdoings.

The 1,400-page Pennsylvania grand jury report detailing thousands of instances of sexual abuse by clergy in six of the states’ eight dioceses made major headlines. A federal investigation was especially fitting, FFRF Co-Presidents Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor contended in a letter, because the Church’s “musical chairs” history of deliberately moving offenders to new locations — shielding them from local outrage and providing them with fresh victims — creates an interstate crisis that required federal action.

“U.S. Attorney William McSwain of Philadelphia, who issued the subpoenas, wants to know if priests, bishops, seminarians or others committed any federal crimes,” says the AP story. “He demanded the bishops turn over any evidence that anyone in their ranks took children across state lines for illicit purposes; sent sexual images or messages via phone or computer; instructed anyone not to contact police; reassigned suspected predators; or used money or other assets as part of the scandal.”

FFRF is pleased that the DOJ is finally acting decisively.