D.C. Attorney General investigating how archdiocese has handled allegations of clergy abuse
Oct. 24, 2018
A week after the Archdiocese of Washington released the names of 28 archdiocesan clergy who over the last 70 years had been "credibly accused" of sexual abuse of minors, the D.C. Attorney General’s Office announced that it will conduct an investigation into how the archdiocese has handled allegations of clergy abuse.
D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine, in a statement on his office’s website, noted Oct. 23 that “The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) has launched a civil investigation into whether the Archdiocese – which is a nonprofit institution – violated the District’s Nonprofit Act by potentially covering up allegations of sexual abuse of minors.”
“OAG also has the authority to bring criminal charges against mandated reporters who fail to report instances of abuse or neglect under the District’s mandated reporting law,” statement said.
Public radio station WAMU quoted Racine as saying “the reason we're using our authority under the not-for-profit and charities section is because we have subpoena authority, and of course not-for-profits cannot be engaged in concealment of illegal [actions].”
In a statement released Oct. 23 after Racine’s announcement, the Archdiocese of Washington reported that its attorneys met last month with Racine to outline “the extensive efforts that the archdiocese takes to prevent and respond to allegations of sexual abuse of minors.”
“Along with outside counsel, Kim Viti Fiorentino, chancellor and general counsel for the Archdiocese of Washington, met with the attorney general and his staff and provided documentation of the archdiocese’s longstanding Child Protection Policy, including copies of the Annual Reports published by the archdiocese every year since 2003,” the statement said.
The statement noted that “at the request of Cardinal Donald Wuerl, attorneys for the archdiocese took the initiative to brief the attorney general for the District of Columbia” on the archdiocese’s child protection efforts.
“We had a very productive exchange with the attorney general and his staff. We explained that the problem of sexual abuse of minors in the archdiocese was an historical one – that to our knowledge there had not been an incident of abuse of a minor by an archdiocesan clergy member for almost 20 years,” said Fiorentino. “The Archdiocese of Washington remains committed to a collaborative and transparent review process because there is not now, and has not been for decades, any problem of abuse of minors by clergy of the Archdiocese of Washington. Zero tolerance has been mandated in this archdiocese and zero abuse is the result.”
On Oct. 15, the Archdiocese of Washington posted on its website the names of 28 former clergy of the archdiocese credibly accused of sexual abuse of minors from 1948 onward. The list also includes three religious-order priests who served in temporary roles in archdiocesan parishes or schools.
The list – which was assembled as part of a comprehensive review of the archdiocese’s archives ordered by Cardinal Donald Wuerl in 2017 – was also published in the Oct. 18 print edition of the Catholic Standard and posted on its website.
Racine’s announcement of his investigation came one day after the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia launched a hotline and email address to report child sexual abuse by clergy.
“Survivors of child sexual abuse by clergy who wish to share their experiences and/or those who have knowledge of such abuse are encouraged to report these incidents to the U.S. Attorney's Office for potential criminal investigation and prosecution," said U.S. Attorney Jessie K. Liu in an Oct. 22 news release.
The U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia statement said it the hotline, (202) 252-7008, is for anyone wishing to report “child sexual abuse by a clergy member that took place in a house of worship, school, or other location in the District of Columbia.” It also provided the email, [email protected], to report abuse.
The Archdiocese of Washington has had a Child Protection Policy that has been in effect for more than three decades. When the Archdiocese of Washington instituted the policy in 1986, it was one of the first dioceses in the United States to do so. The policy mandates immediate reporting of abuse allegations to civil authorities.
It also requires a thorough background check for all employees, clergy and volunteers who have substantial contact with children. The policy requires two forms of background checks – electronic background checks and fingerprinting.
The policy also requires assisting those who have been harmed, and extensive education and training on how to prevent and identify mistreatment of children and youth. Everyone working with young people in the archdiocese is required to attend a “Protecting God’s Children for Adults” workshop, which are offered in English and Spanish throughout the year in various locations throughout the archdiocese.
The Archdiocese of Washington also makes resources and information about protecting children available online at https://adw.org/about-us/policies-and-resources/child-protection. There, parents will find information on the archdiocese’s child protection efforts, safety tips, how to recognize Internet and cyber bullying and other information.
In addition to that policy, the archdiocese has an independent Child Protection Advisory Board comprised of lay experts and a clergy member that advises on and monitors compliance with child protection efforts. The Child Protection Advisory Board ensures policies are properly looked at, reviewed and implemented and prepares an audit report that is published annually in the Catholic Standard.
The archdiocese is committed to meeting the needs of survivors of abuse and reporting such allegations to authorities, and encourages anyone who may have been abused by a priest, employee or volunteer of the Archdiocese of Washington, or who is aware of any suspected abuse, to contact our Office of Child Protection and Safe Environments at: 301-853-5302.
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