Virginia clergy sex abuse probe, coverup in the Catholic Church.
Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring announced Wednesday that his office is running an “ongoing investigation” into the state’s two Catholic dioceses and whether there has been any sexual abuse and coverup. The announcement comes a day after the District of Columbia’s top prosecutor made a similar announcement.
The statement said the probe was launched in response to the Pennsylvania grand jury report released this summer, “that documented decades of sexual abuse and coverup by Catholic clergy in Pennsylvania.” It also announced the creation of a hotline staffed by state police investigators and a website for reporting clergy abuse.
“It made me sick to see the extent of the damage done, the efforts to cover it up, and the complicity and enabling that went on by powerful people who should have known better and should have done more to protect vulnerable children,” the statement quoted Herring, a Democrat, as saying of the Pennsylvania report. “We shouldn’t assume the behavior and the problems are limited just to Pennsylvania or to one diocese. If there has been abuse or coverup in Virginia like there was in Pennsylvania I want to know about it, I want to root it out, and I want to help survivors get justice and get on a path to healing.”
Virginia makes the 13th state this year – plus the District – to start an investigation of the Catholic Church, a historic high. Kentucky’s attorney general has announced his intention to begin one.
Many Catholics see the civil investigations as welcome and long overdue after learning of coverups, but others – including some leaders, such as Washington’s Cardinal Donald Wuerl – have in recent weeks described the attention on the church as generally unfair and biased, and they emphasize that most abuse reports were decades ago.
Virginia has two Catholic dioceses – one in Richmond and one in Arlington.
Leading advocates for clergy abuse survivors in Virginia had recently been pressing Herring to meet and hear their argument for an investigation like the one in Pennsylvania.