WASHINGTON, D.C., October 23, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – The District of Columbia is the latest jurisdiction launching an investigation into potential sexual abuse committed by Catholic priests and tolerated by the Church in the nation’s capital.
D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine announced Tuesday his office has started an investigation into the Archdiocese of Washington, the Washington Post reports, under his authority to enforce laws regulating nonprofits and requiring reporting of sex abuse. Any felonies uncovered would have to be prosecuted by the federal government.
Racine says he was driven to act by the “withering set of facts” in an August report by a Pennsylvania grand jury, which identified 301 priests accused of hundreds of cases of sexual abuse, with six different dioceses allegedly hiding their crimes for several decades and a “sophisticated” cover-up extending all the way to the Vatican in some cases. The report found that numerous abusive clergymen were not only protected, but promoted. Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington who remained in office until Pope Francis accepted his resignation earlier this month, is named throughout the report. He led the diocese of Pittsburgh, one of the dioceses investigated by the Pennsylvania grand jury, before coming to Washington, D.C.
Wuerl remains the apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of Washington until his successor is named and installed.
The report has inspired multiple states to launch investigations, including Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, and New York. Racine, a Democrat, said in an August interview that his office’s phones have been “burning up” with calls to look into the allegations.
The attorney general’s decision comes after a meeting last month in which archdiocesan attorneys briefed his office on the church’s prevention and reporting measures.
“We had a very productive exchange with the Attorney General and his staff,” archdiocese attorney and chancellor Kim Viti Fiorentino claimed.
Wuerl has been criticized for his relationship with his disgraced predecessor, former cardinal Theodore McCarrick. McCarrick stepped down in June amid allegations that he had molested a teenager decades ago in New York. Since then, former seminarians and priests have come forward to descrive the prelate’s sexual predation, apparently an open secret in the archdiocese.
The archdiocese issued a statement Tuesday pledging that it “remains committed to a collaborative and transparent review process,” and insisting “there is not now, and has not been for decades, any problem of abuse of minors by clergy of the Archdiocese of Washington.”
The capital’s Democrat Mayor, Muriel Bowser, has also launched a web page for victims or witnesses of potential sex abuse to submit reports. In addition, the U.S. Attorney’s office for the district has established a hotline for survivors of clergy sex abuse.