After receiving a letter from the Freedom From Religion Foundation, 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 reports today.
The state/church watchdog had recently asked for a federal investigation 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.
The DOJ seems to have heeded FFRF’s call.
“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 delighted that the DOJ is finally acting decisively.
“We have been imploring the federal government for a long time to firmly act and end the Church’s abuses,” Barker and Gaylor remark. “At long last, it seems that the DOJ is engaging in concrete action.”
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 32,000 members across the country and in all 50 states. Its purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.