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US Justice Department Investigating Catholic Church in Pennsylvania

The Department of Justice has subpoenaed at least seven of the eight Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania as part of an investigation into abuse by priests. The Ar...
Catholic Church Pittsburgh

The Department of Justice has subpoenaed at least seven of the eight Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania as part of an investigation into abuse by priests.

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the dioceses of Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, and Scranton acknowledged on Thursday they had received federal subpoenas.

“The Diocese of Pittsburgh has received the subpoena from the U.S. Department of Justice and will cooperate fully with any and all investigations of the sexual abuse of minors by clergy in Pennsylvania,” said spokesman the Rev. Nicholas S. Vaskov.

A spokesperson for the Department of Justice did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

At the Diocese of Scranton headquarters on Wyoming Avenue in Scranton, spokesman Bill Genello confirmed a federal subpoena was served to the diocese.

He would not say what documents investigators are after, only saying, “the diocese is cooperating fully with the investigation.”

The federal probe comes on the heels of a damning grand jury report in Pennsylvania that found credible evidence that 301 “predator priests” abused more than 1,000 children in six dioceses since 1947.

Because the statute of limitations had run out on most of the crimes, only two priests have been charged as a result of the two-year-long investigation.

But the Pennsylvania report has prompted officials in several other states to open inquiries into allegations of sexual misconduct by Catholic clergy.

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests has been asking for a federal investigation into the Catholic Church since 2003, during the church’s last widespread scandal of clergy sex abuse.

David Clohessy, SNAP’s former national director, said “as best we can tell” this is the first federal probe into the Catholic Church in the United States targeting clergy sexual abuse. “And it is long overdue.”

Dioceses respond

“This subpoena is no surprise considering the horrific misconduct detailed in the statewide grand jury report,” said Jerome Zufelt, spokesman for the Diocese of Greensburg.

“Survivors, parishioners and the public want to see proof that every diocese has taken sweeping, decisive and impactful action to make children safer. We see this as another opportunity for the Diocese of Greensburg to be transparent.”

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia likewise pledged to cooperate with the probe.

“The Archdiocese of Philadelphia has received a subpoena issued by a federal grand jury, which requires the production of certain documents. The archdiocese will cooperate with the United States Department of Justice in this matter,” the archdiocese said.

The Diocese of Allentown said it “is responding to an information request contained in a subpoena from the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania,” adding, “The diocese will cooperate fully with the request, just as it cooperated fully with the information requests related to the statewide grand jury.

“The diocese sees itself as a partner with law enforcement in its goal to eliminate the abuse of minors wherever it may occur in society.”

The Diocese of Erie also confirmed that it had received a subpoena. “Its counsel is in conversation with the Department of Justice. We will have no further comment at this time,” a spokeswoman said.

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