The Missouri Attorney General’s Office identifies 12 cases for potential criminal prosecution, more than any other state attorney general
ST. LOUIS, Mo. – Today, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt held a press conference to announce the findings of the investigation into allegations of sexual abuse by clergy members in the Roman Catholic Church. After an extensive review of the records of thousands of clergy members and conducting interviews with victims, the Attorney General’s Office will refer 12 former clergy members for potential criminal prosecution, the most of any state attorney general probe, and laid out suggested guidelines for the Catholic Church moving forward.
“Since I took office, one of my top priorities has been conducting a thorough, exhaustive review of allegations of abuse by clergy members in the Roman Catholic Church. Today, as a result of that review, we are announcing that we will refer 12 cases of alleged abuse to local prosecutors for further investigation and possible prosecution – more referrals than any other state attorney general.” said Attorney General Schmitt during the press conference.
Schmitt continued, “In cases in which local prosecutors should seek our assistance, we stand ready and willing to help. Additionally, we’ve provided concrete recommendations to the Catholic Church moving forward. I also want to thank the brave victims who have come forward to share their stories. To the victims: you didn’t deserve any of this. None of what happened to you was your fault. This report, our referrals for criminal prosecution, our aggressive and substantive suggestions for reform, will not change what happened in the past. But, they can change the trajectory of the future and ensure that this never happens again.”
“Missouri’s attorney general joins others across the country in investigating crimes that have long been kept secret in the Church,” said Donna B. Doucette, the executive director of Voice of the Faithful, an international organization that began in response to revelations of clergy sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of Boston in 2002. “The crimes of abusers do not diminish the many good works of other priests, but we decry the attitude of secrecy and the lack of accountability that has kept the Church hierarchy from resolving the scandal and holding those who have covered it up accountable.”
The investigation of allegations of sexual abuse or misconduct in the Roman Catholic Church was launched last year by then-Attorney General Josh Hawley.
As a part of the investigation, the Missouri Attorney General’s Office reviewed every available personnel record of every priest serving in the Archdiocese of St. Louis, the Diocese of Kansas City – St. Joseph, the Diocese of Springfield – Cape Girardeau, and the Diocese of Jefferson City dating back to 1945 — more than 2,000 priests and 300 deacons, seminarians, and religious women.
The Attorney General’s Office also spoke to all survivors of abuse or their family members who contacted the office to listen to their story and get their account of abuse.
In total, the investigation uncovered 163 priests or clergy members accused of sexual abuse or misconduct against minors. Of those 163 priests, 83 of the accused are deceased. Of the remaining 80, in 46 of those cases, prosecution was barred by the Missouri law regarding the statute of limitations. One case is still under open investigation by the Church. 16 cases have been previously referred for local prosecution and five cases have been or are currently being investigated by prosecutors, leaving the 12 potential cases that the Missouri Attorney General’s Office will be referring.
The Attorney General’s Office also laid out concrete recommendations to the Church to ensure that our most vulnerable are protected moving forward:
- The Church should assume greater responsibility and oversight over all religious order priests and priests visiting or relating from other dioceses to subject them to the same procedures and oversight with regard to youth protection and clergy abuse as if they were diocesan priests
- Dioceses should ensure that the Independent Review Board is composed entirely of lay people and its determinations of credibility and sanctions will be given authoritative weight with respect to the ability of an offending priest to minister in its diocese.
- The diocese should not wait for victims who made the effort before 2002 to present reports of abuse. They should review all past claims and subject them to the heightened 2002 Charter standards, inviting the assistance of victims.
- In cases of offending priests who have had reports of abuse credited by the Independent Review Board, the decision of the IRB and the decision of the diocese to seek laicization of the offending priest should be publicly disclosed without delay.
- A robust program on notification and supervision of priests removed from public ministry or from the clerical state should be undertaken.
Additionally, the clergy abuse hotline will remain open, and the Attorney General’s Office welcomes anyone to continue to call to share their account of abuse.
The full report can be found here: http://ago.mo.gov/docs/default-source/press-releases/2019/catholicchurchclergyabuseinvestigationreport.pdf?sfvrsn=2
A livestream of Attorney General Schmitt’s remarks can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/AttorneyGeneralSchmitt/videos/1372116052963628
Broadcast quality video will be available shortly on Youtube at: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCmECdPkrg-Y5z7-QhVQuS-g