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Wave of state attorneys general take on Catholic Church sex abuse

A German bishop is seen from behind.
Photo: Arne Dedert/AFP/Getty Images

The Attorney General of Virginia Mark Herring announced Wednesday that his office was launching an "ongoing investigation" into possible sexual abuse and coverups by the Catholic dioceses in the state, the Washington Post reports.

The big picture: Herring is not alone. Since the Pennsylvania grand jury's bombshell August report of egregious child sex abuse at the hands of Catholic priests, several other allegations of sexual abuse and ignorance on behalf of the Church have come to light. As a result, several other state investigations have followed.

The states investigating

  • Maryland: Attorney General Brian Frosh informed Archbishop William Lori that his office is conducting "an investigation and thorough review" of records relating to child sex abuse from the Church. (Baltimore Sun)
  • Vermont: Attorney General T.J. Donovan has appointed a task force to investigate abuses from a Catholic orphanage detailed by a major BuzzFeed News investigation. (CNN)
  • Michigan: An "independent, thorough, transparent, and prompt" statewide investigation was launched by the Attorney General's Office. (Detroit Free Press)
  • New Jersey: A task force was created by Attorney General Gurbir Grewal to investigate allegations of abuse in the dioceses of New Jersey. (NJ.com)
  • New York: Every Catholic diocese in the state was subpoenaed by the attorney general's office as part of a civil investigation by the AG's Charities Bureau. (Washington Post)
  • Nebraska: Three Catholic dioceses were directed by the Attorney General's Office to hand over 40 years' worth of abuse allegation records. (Omaha World-Herald)
  • D.C.: Attorney General Karl Racine said his office was investigating sex abuse in the District. (Washington Post)
  • Kentucky: Deputy Attorney General J. Michael Brown's office told The Record that they would soon be "preparing draft legislation that allows for a multi-district/statewide grand jury in Kentucky" to investigate sex abuse.
  • Missouri: Attorney General Josh Hawley opened an investigation led by a veteran sex crimes prosecutor. (The Hill)
  • New Mexico: Attorney General Hector Balderas asked the state's three Catholic dioceses to turn over records related to abuse allegations by priests. (CBS)

Open to investigations

  • Illinois: Attorney General Lisa Madigan said in a statement that she was meeting with dioceses that were mentioned in the Pennsylvania report, and will conduct an investigation if there is not full cooperation from other bishops around the state.
  • Louisiana: Attorney General Jeff Landry said in an op-ed that while he has not received "one single complaint against any clergyman," his office would "work with the state, local and other officials to help find it, root it out, and...bring predators to justice" if allegations surfaced.

The bottom line: This isn't a U.S. problem, it's an institutional problem proven by the wave of investigations spurred around the globe, from Germany to Chile, all the way to the Vatican.

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