An American flag waves outside a government building

On Thursday, October 25th, 2018 Federal prosecutors in Pennsylvania opened an investigation into the Catholic Church. The size and scope of the investigation remains to be seen; however, there has never been an investigation of this magnitude into the abuse of children by priests.

Prosecutors in Pennsylvania will lean on Federal resources to thoroughly investigate the sexual abuse of minors and the cover-up of such by the Catholic Church. For decades the Church has covered up these crimes and policed itself.

“It is essential to involve federal resources to fully and finally get to the bottom of a scandal that has been going on for decades, and I say that both as a former federal prosecutor and a Catholic,” said David Hickton, who was US Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania from 2010-2017.

“There is no excuse anymore for the church policing itself.”

Questions still remain about the scope of the Federal probe; however, prosecutors are looking for any evidence that Catholic clergy may have transported children across state lines for illicit purposes or shared child pornography online or electronically.

Furthermore, they are looking for evidence that the Catholic Church leaders covered up the crimes of priests’ by relocating them to new parishes in new locations. In addition, prosecutors are looking for evidence that leaders instructed victims and their families not to tell police.

The evidence could be used to bring a racketeering case against Catholic Church leaders. The investigation is beginning in Pennsylvania rather than the Justice Department in Washington D.C. Further, all eight of the Catholic Church’s dioceses have received subpoenas.

In August of 2018, a statewide grand jury released a report detailing extensive sexual abuse and cover-ups in six of the Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania; the report also uncovered that 301 priests since 1947 had abused more than one thousand victims.

For the investigation, the twenty-three grand jurors issued a set of recommendations which would aid in the investigation including the elimination of the statute of limitations for victims to file criminal complaints and outlawing non-disclosure agreements.

The scope of the investigation may go well beyond the borders of Pennsylvania; further, since the release of the grand jury report a number of Catholic dioceses claimed to have launched internal investigations. In addition, several other states Attorney General’s such as New York, New Jersey, Missouri, and New Mexico opened investigations into the matter.

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