The U.S. Justice Department has opened up an investigation into the reported child abuse scandal currently rocking the Catholic Church by serving subpoenas to churches across the state of Pennsylvania, according to the Associated Press.
The deep dive into Pennsylvania churches comes after an August state grand jury report that revealed rampant sex abuse from over 300 "predator priests" on about 1,000 kids over seven decades all over the state, The Hill reported. On top of that, the report showed that church leaders attempted to actively cover up the abuse.
Unfortunately, due to the statue of limitations in the state, only two priests have been charged as a result of the investigation, according to the AP.
So far, the dioceses of Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Scranton, Erie, Greensburg, Allentown, and Harrisburg have all confirmed they received the subpoenas and have agreed to cooperate with law enforcement.
"This subpoena is no surprise considering the horrific misconduct detailed in the statewide grand jury report," the Greensburg Diocese said in a statement. "Survivors, parishioners and the public want to see proof that every diocese has taken sweeping, decisive and impactful action to make children safer. We see this as another opportunity for the Diocese of Greensburg to be transparent."
U.S. Attorney William McSwain of Philadelphia issued the subpoenas, indicating he wants to know if priests, bishops, seminarians, or others broke federal law.
He's also requested bishops turn over any evidence that any of their priests might have taken kids across states lines and committed inappropriate acts, sent sexual images or messages via technology, told people not to contact law enforcement about their assaults, or used financial assets as part of the scandal.On top of that, the subpoenas request access to documents stored in "Secret Archives," "Historical Archives" or "Confidential Files," and records related to the dioceses' organizational charts, finances, insurance coverage, clergy assignments, and treatment of priests, according to AP sources.
"I'm thrilled at hearing this information. We have the full weight and attention of the United States federal government investigating the Roman Catholic Church," said Shaun Dougherty, 48, of Johnstown, who came forward about his abuse as a child by Altoona-Johnstown priest.
Both Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who oversaw the state's original probe, and McSwain declined to comment on the investigation to the AP.
While there is no indication the Justice Department is planning any type of investigation into clergy abuse nationwide, it's certainly more than just an issue in the Keystone state.
One Roman Catholic archbishop described the issue as the Church's "own 9/11," according to The Hill.
In September, Germany's Catholic Church released a report listing 1,670 clergy members credibly charged with abuse, followed by an October report from a diocese in California listing of 34 priests accused of sex abuse, as The Hill further documented.