According to the New York Times, the Department of Justice has just issued a mandate to the Catholic Church: Do not destroy any documents related to the handling of child sexual abuse. The message is clear – the feds are about to get involved in an investigation within the church that could span the entire nation.
Catholic bishops were asked to ensure their files remain intact in a number of matters, including sexual abuse claims. They were also asked to ensure the documents in any confidential archives be kept, even those that pertain to the transfer of priests.
In late October, the Justice Department opened investigations into those dioceses in Pennsylvania that were part of a state grand jury report and the diocese in Buffalo, NY. Despite the fact that the priest sex abuse scandal has been raging since the 80s, this is the first time the federal branch has considered investigating. Other countries, like Australia and Ireland, intervened with government-run inquiries, but to date, the United States has not gotten involved. Survivors groups have asked for involvement multiple times.
The request to retain those records came as a set of instructions from the desk of U.S. Attorney William McSwain out of Pennsylvania, and it was sent to Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. In the letter, McSwain asked that copies be transmitted to every diocese in the United States.
Some dioceses have responded that they’re already holding onto documentation because individual states require it, but in the past, dioceses have been found to destroy files containing concerning evidence. Priests, nuns, and lay people have even served as whistleblowers in those cases.
What comes next will be of interest to all survivors. If you or someone you love has been a victim of priest sexual abuse, you don’t have to be silent any longer. Contact Paul Mones to learn your options.