Pennsylvania was rocked by revelations of abuse by priests this August.
The U.S. Justice Department announced Thursday that it has opened an investigation of child sexual abuse inside the Roman Catholic Church in Pennsylvania. "We have the full weight and attention of the United States federal government investigating the Roman Catholic Church", said Shaun Dougherty, 48, of Johnstown, who told authorities he was molested by a priest as a boy in the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese.
Senior church officials, including bishops, monsignors and others, knew about the abuse committed by priests, but covered it up to avoid scandal, criminal charges against priests and monetary damages to the dioceses.
RICO has historically been used to dismantle organized-crime syndicates.
State-led investigations into clerical sexual abuse are now underway in several states including Maryland, Michigan, Nebraska, New Jersey, and Missouri.
"There is a consensus rising, which is this just has to stop".
The Diocese of Rockford is being sued by two survivors, Anderson said, though he did not name the second person. This time, they may be right.
In a statement emailed Thursday afternoon from Penny Wiegert, a spokeswoman for the Rockford diocese, diocesan officials said "the Diocese of Rockford, along with the Archdiocese of Chicago and the dioceses of Belleville, Joliet, Peoria, and Springfield are now in full cooperation with the State Attorney General's Office inquiry into each diocese's handling of childhood sex abuse claims against clergy".
A dozen other states have also opened investigations into clergy sex abuse.
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.
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Plaintiff Darin Buckman said he was sexually assaulted by a priest in the Peoria Diocese between the late '70s and early '80s; he was 8 to 14 years old at the time. Because of Pennsylvania's time limits on prosecuting old cases, only two priests were charged as a result of the grand jury investigation.
The 54-page complaint asks the Catholic church to release the names of each priest or church leader accused of child molestation and to implement policies that would "better protect children and the general public from further harm". "It's potentially enormous", he said.
"This subpoena is no surprise considering the horrific misconduct detailed in the statewide grand jury report", the Greensburg Diocese said in a statement.
The Justice Department and US Attorney's Office in Philadelphia declined to comment.
Anderson said the Catholic church revealed only partial lists of abusive priests in prior legal settlements.
Child USA's Hamilton, for one, said she thinks using federal RICO as a weapon against the church would be a stretch, since the 1970 law is not created to deal with problems such as sex abuse and other personal injury cases. She said the school expects "nothing less than civility".
"The files they are asking to be handed over, at least here, are in relation to the possible commission of particular crimes", he said.
However, Hamilton said a federal statute called the Mann Act, which prohibits moving people across state lines for the goal of illegal sex acts, could be a more promising legal avenue. Every bishop, priest, deacon, employee, and volunteer, who have contact with children in any capacity, must undergo a background check and triennial training on how to prevent, recognize and report the sexual abuse of children.
Tobias, the law professor who specializes in federal courts, said whatever comes of the investigation, the issuing of the subpoenas has likely sent a jolt across the country.
"Pennsylvania might be the first state where the federal government does this", Tobias said.