A Pennsylvania grand jury report that detailed seven decades of allegations of sexual abuse of 1,000 children by Catholic priests and subsequent cover-ups is reverberating across the Midwest, as church and law enforcement officials here continue to clock more reports on hotlines.
State attorneys general in Missouri and Illinois on Thursday announced reviews of Catholic Church records there, citing interest generated by the Pennsylvania report.
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan specifically referenced Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s grand jury report. She said the report identified at least seven priests with connections to Illinois.
“The Chicago Archdiocese has agreed to meet with me. I plan to reach out to the other dioceses in Illinois to have the same conversation and expect the bishops will agree and cooperate fully. If not, I will work with states’ attorneys and law enforcement throughout Illinois to investigate,” Madigan said Thursday.
The same day Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley announced he was opening an independent review of the Archdiocese of St. Louis regarding allegations of sexual abuse by priests.
Hawley commended church officials for cooperating with the review.
“Victims of sexual abuse of any kind deserve to have their voices heard and Missourians deserve to know if this misconduct has occurred in their communities,” Hawley said. “By inviting this independent review, the Archdiocese is demonstrating a willingness to be transparent and expose any potential wrongdoing”
The Pennsylvania grand jury report issued Aug. 14 had triggered 544 new calls to Shapiro’s hotline as of Thursday evening, as well as calls to diocesan offices in Greensburg and Pittsburgh.
Diocesan officials said those allegations are being processed and referred to local district attorneys. They have stressed that the church has adopted ever stricter policies for the protection of children in recent years and that most of the new allegations date back decades.
In Greensburg, the diocese earlier this week moved to place a Uniontown priest on administrative leave while the district attorney’s office investigates a new allegation dating back to the 1990s. District Attorney John Peck confirmed his office had also received referrals from the diocese about a new allegation against a priest previously named in the grand jury report as well as multiple allegations against deceased clergy.
A Pittsburgh Diocese spokesman said church officials there had received more than 50 new calls this week and was in the process of referring allegations to local district attorneys. The Rev. Nicholas Vaskov noted that all of the new allegations predated 1990.