FFRF applauds Washington AG’s commitment to clergy sex abuse investigation 

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson

The Freedom From Religion Foundation cheers the decision of the Washington attorney general to force the Seattle Archdiocese’s compliance with a clergy child sexual abuse investigation.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson recently sent subpoenas to the Seattle Archdiocese, the Diocese of Spokane and the Diocese of Yakima seeking to examine whether these religious entities have used charitable funds to cover up pedophilia. Of the three, the Seattle Archdiocese is the one that has refused to cooperate.

The Seattle Archdiocese first released names of perpetrators in 2016. The list, which now has more than 80 individuals, includes long-dead priests. It goes without saying that the Catholic Church cannot be trusted to fully and accurately report on the number of perpetrators among its clergy. The Illinois Attorney General’s Office’s published report in 2023 listed four times as many substantiated child sex abusers than previously disclosed by the dioceses of Illinois — 451 compared to 103. Similarly, recent court filings revealed that there have been more than 600 victims under the Baltimore Archdiocese, and “almost certainly hundreds more,” according to former Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh.

An independent and — perhaps more importantly —  secular investigation is critical to the integrity of the findings.  The Washington attorney general’s commitment to holding these dioceses accountable is a crucial step to truly understanding the magnitude of the abuse in Washington. Survivors deserve an investigation that publicly reveals the identities of perpetrators — and those who provide them safe haven. Ensuring that every potential legal recourse remains on the table is vital to offering healing to survivors and their families, as well as sending a message that such abuse will not be tolerated in the state of Washington.

“Washingtonians deserve a public accounting of how the Catholic Church handles allegations of child sex abuse, and whether charitable dollars were used to cover it up,” Ferguson said in a statement on his website. “As a Catholic, I am disappointed the Church refuses to cooperate with our investigation. Our goal is to use every tool we have to reveal the truth, and give a voice to survivors.”

FFRF has long called for an independent and secular inquiry to uphold the integrity of any such findings into clergy sexual abuse. The Seattle Archdiocese seems committed to impeding the investigation. Perhaps it realizes that the findings will uncover years of cover-up that will do serious financial damage to the church. FFRF Senior Policy Counsel Ryan Jayne has pointed out that as instances of abuse are uncovered, dioceses across the country dishonestly have resorted to bankruptcy to protect themselves against lawsuits.

“The abuse unearthed by independent investigations has been truly heartbreaking,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “The public deserves to know what the Catholic Church has done to cover up these egregious sexual assaults by their clergy. Praise goes to Attorney General Ferguson for holding the Seattle Archdiocese accountable.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with 40,000 members and several chapters across the country, including more than 1,700 members in Washington and two state chapters. Its purposes are to protect the constitutional separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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