JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley announced he will be launching an investigation into potential sexual abuse by the clergy in the Archdiocese of St. Louis, while also encouraging others to allow similar investigations.
“I have received a letter from the archbishop confirming that he and the archdiocese will open to my office their files and will allow us to conduct a thorough, impartial review of potential clergy abuse in the Archdiocese of St. Louis,” Hawley told reporters Thursday afternoon.
Hawley said his office will be completing an independent review of the diocese after the Archdiocese agreed to voluntarily cooperate with the Attorney General’s Office.
“Victims of sexual abuse of any kind deserve to have their voices heard and Missourians deserve to know if this misconduct has occurred in their communities,” Hawley said in a statement. “By inviting this independent review, the Archdiocese is demonstrating a willingness to be transparent and expose any potential wrongdoing.”
In Missouri, jurisdiction for crimes of this nature lies with the elected local prosecutor. However, because the Archdiocese has agreed to voluntarily cooperate, the Attorney General’s Office will be able to conduct an independent review for the purpose of public transparency and accountability.
This all comes after the issue of sexual abuse by priests exploded last week when a Pennsylvania grand jury released a report stating that church leaders had attempted to cover up sexual abuse by hundreds of priests over the last seven decades. (Read the report here.)
Hawley told reporters that the investigation will be staffed by career prosecutors and led by Christine Krug, head of the attorney general’s public safety division and a longtime sex crimes prosecutor in St. Louis.
UPDATE: Bishop Shawn McKnight has invited Attorney General Josh Hawley to review the files of the Diocese of Jefferson City, while the Kansas City Star reports that Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph spokesman Jack Smith says the diocese will “cooperate with any review the attorney general requests.”
The Springfield News-Leader reports that Leslie Eidson, director of communications for the Springfield-Cape Girardeau diocese, said the diocese plans to launch an independent inquiry at the direction of Bishop Edward Rice.
Benjamin Peters is a reporter for the Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine, and also produces the #MoLeg Podcast. He joined the Missouri Times in 2016 after working as a sports editor and TV news producer in mid-Missouri. Benjamin is a graduate of Missouri State University in Springfield. To contact Benjamin, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @BenjaminDPeters.