The Justice Department has launched an investigation into alleged sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priests throughout the Pennsylvania dioceses in wake of a damning report by a state grand jury, a person familiar with the matter said Thursday.
The federal investigation is based in the U.S. Attorney's Office in Philadelphia, said the person who is not authorized to comment publicly.
The Archdiocese of Philadelphia also confirmed to Religion News Service that it is aware of the inquiry and is cooperating with investigators - including handing over documents. Beginning in 1993, SNAP has repeatedly called on the Justice Department to investigate the church.
Officials in the Pittsburgh diocese said they also will cooperate with the probe.
At least seven of the state's eight Roman Catholic dioceses - Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Scranton, Erie, Greensburg, Allentown and Harrisburg - acknowledged receiving subpoenas and said they would cooperate or were working with Justice Department officials. Poulson resigned from the Erie diocese earlier this year, after a military chaplain in Texas reported a 23-year-old had alleged he was abused by Poulson starting at age 8, prosecutors said. Subpoenas demanding confidential files and testimony from church leaders were served last week.
The shocking grand jury report released in August identified more than 300 predator priests and more than 1,000 underage victims of sexual abuse while exposing a church coverup of the vile behavior.
Dr. Alex McFarland and Christopher Hale on the implications of the sweeping grand jury report about priest sexual abuse in Pennsylvania and how the Catholic Church can begin to make amends.
The report is thought to be the most comprehensive to date into abuse in the United States church.
Following the 14 August grand jury report, Pope Francis condemned the "atrocities" of child sex abuse and clerical cover-ups.
In 2015, McChesney reviewed personnel files at the Archdiocese of Seattle, leading to the release of a list of 77 priests and other church officials with credible child sexual abuse allegations against them.
This week, the report triggered a showdown in the state Legislature, where Shapiro pushed to give child-abuse victims a two-year window to sue the church in cases otherwise too old to pursue. A spokesperson for the archdiocese of Chicago said Thursday that it had not received a subpoena from the Department of Justice.
Nearly all the cases in the eight dioceses are time-barred from prosecution and civil action under Pennsylvania's statutes of limitation.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who oversaw the state probe, declined to comment on the federal investigation. Additional charges including a felony count of indecent assault - person less than 13 years of age; and misdemeanor counts of indecent assault - person less than 13 years of age; indecent assault - person less than 16 years of age; criminal attempt indecent assault - without consent; endangering the welfare of children; and corruption of minors; were withdrawn. The Pennsylvania report followed the resignation of Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington, who is accused of sexually abusing seminarians and minors. Many accused priests have already died. Lawmakers ended the session Wednesday without taking action.
Church leaders opposed the change, warning it would cripple their ability to fund Catholic charities and enrich lawyers.
According to The Washington Post, the decision to open the investigation was made by federal prosecutors in the USA attorney's office in Philadelphia and was not a directive from Washington, D.C. He is awaiting a third trial.