Missouri launches probe of clergy sex abuse in St. Louis
U.S. - 24 August 2018: Missouri is launching a probe of potential sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. Louis, state Attorney General Josh Hawley said on Thursday, following last week's Pennsylvania report finding widespread clergy sex abuse in that state.
Hawley said his office does not have the power to force institutions to cooperate with criminal investigations but was able to launch the probe after the archdiocese agreed to help.
"They say they want to cooperate fully and I'm confident they will," Hawley told reporters on a conference call. "I am firmly of the view that full transparency benefits not only the public but also the church and, most importantly, it will help us expose and address potential wrongdoing and protect the vulnerable from abuse."
St. Louis Archbishop Robert Carlson, in an interview with St. Louis NBC affiliate KSDK on Tuesday, said he would cooperate with investigators.
"We have always cooperated with whoever the prosecutor is," said Carlson, who has been the top Catholic official in the St. Louis since 2009. "We have nothing to hide."
A spokesman for Carlson did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday.
The probe initially covers only the Archdiocese of St. Louis, one of five Roman Catholic dioceses in the state, Hawley said. He asked the bishops of the four other dioceses to agree to cooperate with the probe. Dioceses are groupings of parishes and one of the main organizational structures of the Catholic church.
Pennsylvania officials last week released the results of a two-year grand jury probe that found evidence that at least 1,000 people, mostly children, had been sexually abused by some 300 clergymen in the state during the past 70 years. The most-wide ranging report on clergy sex abuse in the United States said the numbers of actual victims and abusers could be much higher.
Similar reports have emerged in Europe, Australia and Chile, prompting lawsuits and investigations, sending dioceses into bankruptcy and undercutting the moral authority of the leadership of the Catholic Church, which has some 1.2 billion members around the world.
Reuters last week contacted the attorneys general of the 49 states other than Pennsylvania to see if they were considering similar actions. Only two, in New York and New Mexico, at the time said they had taken some initial steps toward doing so.