Archive

ShareThis Page
Justice Department asks Catholic dioceses across the country to preserve abuse-related records | TribLIVE.com
U.S./World

Justice Department asks Catholic dioceses across the country to preserve abuse-related records

Tony LaRussa
| Wednesday, October 31, 2018 11:36 p.m
400951gtrlisteningsession1006102318
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
A woman makes her way into the cathedral before the start of the Diocese of Greensburg listening session on priest abuse at Blessed Sacrament in Greensburg, on Monday, Oct. 22, 2018.

The U.S. Justice Department, which last month launched a federal probe into clergy sex abuse in the Catholic Church, has sent a sweeping call to Catholic dioceses across the country to preserve documents related to abuse.

The Catholic news site whispersintheloggia.blogspot.com Friday posted an Oct. 9 letter to Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, noting that the Justice Department “is investigating possible violations of federal law.” It requested to DiNardo that the nearly-200 U.S. dioceses “not destroy, discard, dispose of, delete or alter” documents related to its probe.

Rocco Palmo, the author of the site, only published the first page of the letter to DiNardo from William McSwain, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, so details of what McSwain is seeking weren’t detailed. However, Palmo wrote in his Friday post that he has the full document and it references “a host of records pertaining to personnel in general, and abuse — and its related claims — in particular.”

The report comes a few weeks after the Justice Department confirmed it is investigating alleged sexual abuse of children by Catholic clergy across the state of Pennsylvania — a major escalation of government scrutiny of the church long sought by victims of pedophile priests. The list of state attorneys general announcing investigations grew last week to 13, plus Washington, D.C.

The federal and state investigations were sparked by a scathing report from a Pennsylvania grand jury in August that found more than 300 Catholic priests in Pennsylvania had sexually abused about 1,000 children over seven decades, protected by a hierarchy of church leaders who covered it up.

Palmo said that the letter is asking all U.S. dioceses to preserve all documents pertaining to personnel and abuse — not only those pertaining to the Pennsylvania dioceses being investigated.

Such a preservation request does not decisively mean that federal prosecutors will ultimately seek or review documents from dioceses outside Pennsylvania, but it does mean that bishops around the country are now on notice not to destroy any such records, because federal prosecutors could seek them at a later date.

A person familiar with the Pennsylvania investigation told the Post last month that federal subpoenas seek records including any evidence of church personnel taking children across state lines for purposes of sexual abuse, any evidence of personnel sending sexual material about children electronically and any evidence that church officials reassigned suspected predators or used church resources to further or conceal such conduct.

Illinois state Supreme Court Justice Ann Burke, who chaired the bishops’ National Review Board for the Protection of Children and Young People in the early 2000′s, said Wednesday that the request to retain documents appears to “mean they’re looking at a larger criminal enterprise.”

Burke said she believes the Justice Department may be looking at whether the Bishops’ Conference itself is a criminal enterprise. The Conference oversaw the creation of a charter, or set of procedures, in 2002 to address allegations of sexual abuse by clergy of young people.

The bishops’ conference declined to comment in detail, issuing only a statement from its general counsel, Anthony Picarello. “We have transmitted the U.S. Attorney’s letter at his request and in the spirit of cooperation with law enforcement.”

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.