Since the U.S. Department of Justice launched an investigation into child sex abuse within Pennsylvania’s Roman Catholic churches last month, a number of other claims, investigations and settlements have appeared across the country, adding to the fallout from an explosive state grand jury probe this summer.
The PBS NewsHour confirmed that Justice Department prosecutors served subpoenas to seven of Pennsylvania’s eight Catholic dioceses: Allentown, Altoona-Johnstown, Erie, Greensburg, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Scranton. An eighth diocese — Harrisburg — told the NewsHour in a statement that it will “cooperate fully” with the DOJ’s inquiry, but didn’t specify whether it was served with a subpoena.
A DOJ spokesperson declined to comment on the existence of the investigation.
The new investigation follows a nearly 900-page grand jury report, released in August, that compiled testimonies from victims alleging decades of abuse by clergy and other church officials. Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro told reporters at the time that the testimonies also pointed to a “sophisticated” cover-up by top church officials.
After a review of internal church documents, the report said there were “credible” allegations against more than 300 “predator priests” in Pennsylvania who sexually abused more than 1,000 children in cases going back to the 1940s. The report also resulted in criminal charges against two Catholic priests. Neither the Archdiocese of Philadelphia nor the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown were flagged in August’s grand jury report, but they were the subject of other grand jury investigations in previous years.
Weeks after the report was released, its findings have prompted attorneys general in other states — including Illinois, Missouri, New Jersey and New Mexico, among others — to pursue their own investigations into the issue. The scopes of these individual probes, along with what exactly the DOJ investigation will include, are not yet clear.
Here’s a look at the fallout from the Pennsylvania grand jury report, leading to the DOJ’s announcement.
What has happened since the Pennsylvania grand jury report?
- Aug. 14, 2018: The grand jury report is released. Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, who previously served as bishop of Pittsburgh for 18 years and was mentioned in the report, issued a pre-emptive statement ahead of the report, acknowledging that while it “may be critical of some of my actions, I believe the report confirms that I acted with diligence, with concern for the victims and to prevent future acts of abuse.”
- Aug. 20, 2018: Pope Francis responded to the Pennsylvania grand jury report in a letter to Catholics worldwide. “We showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them,” he wrote.
- Aug, 23, 2018: Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan noted the Pennsylvania grand jury report “identifies at least seven priests with connections to Illinois.” She said the Archdiocese of Chicago agreed to meet with her about the issue. “As attorney general, I can work with states’ attorneys to force the Church to produce its records and document all of the crimes children in Illinois suffered,” she also wrote in an op-ed for the Springfield State Journal-Register days later. “That could be a long and painful process.”
- Aug. 24, 2018: Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, who is running for U.S. Senate this fall, said his office will investigate clergy sex abuse in Catholic dioceses in the state. The Archdiocese of St. Louis said the attorney general’s office will have “unfettered” access to its files.
- Aug. 26, 2018: Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, the former head Vatican diplomat to the U.S., published a letter alleging that Pope Francis knew of sexual abuse claims against the former archbishop of Washington, Theodore McCarrick, yet rehabilitated him within the church. Francis said the letter “speaks for itself” and said he trusted journalists to look at the letter critically.
- Sept. 4, 2018: New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas said he is investigating claims of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy in the dioceses located in his state, including the cities of Santa Fe, Gallup and Las Cruces. In a letter dated Tuesday, Sept. 4, to the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, Balderas said that his demand for information “is being sent to you in contemplation of litigation.” All three dioceses have pledged said in statements that they intend to to cooperate with investigators.
- Sept. 5, 2018: The Archdiocese of Omaha pledged to cooperate with what it called “the state attorney general’s request to review its investigative records” to audit the archdiocese’s efforts to report and respond to allegations of sexual abuse. According to the diocese, Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson sent a request by mail to the church asking for records as far back as 1978.
- Sept. 6, 2018: The state attorneys general of New York and New Jersey announced investigations into clergy abuse in Roman Catholic dioceses in their states.
- Sept. 13, 2018: Archbishop William Lori is appointed apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston in West Virginia, following the resignation of its bishop, Michael Bransfield. According to a statement from the Baltimore archdiocese, Pope Francis “further instructed Archbishop Lori to conduct an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment of adults against Bishop Bransfield.”
- Sept. 14, 2018: Wuerl marks a six-week “Season of Healing” in the Archdiocese of Washington for clergy abuse victims.
- Sept. 14, 2018: The Diocese of Salt Lake City in Utah said in a statement that it has “received credible allegations of sexual abuse against 16 priests, one religious brother and one seminarian that involved approximately 34 victims” since 1990. According to the statement, investigations into two allegations brought this year against two priests are ongoing.
- Sept. 18, 2018: Shapiro, the Pennsylvania attorney general, held a news conference to discuss the recommendations put forth by the grand jury a month earlier. “When the Grand Jury released its report, I challenged all Pennsylvania bishops to adopt and support each of these recommended reforms to Pennsylvania law,” he said. “Sadly, none of them have.”
- Sept. 18, 2018: Bishop Kevin Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana, disclosed the names of 18 priests and deacons who have been credibly accused of sexually abusing minors at his diocese. Rhoades was formerly the bishop of the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, diocese from 2004 to 2009.
- Sept. 19, 2018: The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops announced a “third-party reporting system” for confidential complaints of sex abuse. “This is a time of deep examination of conscience for each bishop,” the committee said in a statement. “We cannot content ourselves that our response to sexual assault within the Church has been sufficient.”
- Sept. 21, 2018: Several members of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives introduced a resolution calling on U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to “conduct a comprehensive, nationwide investigation into child sexual abuse within the Catholic Church and related institutional cover-ups.”
- Sept. 25, 2018: The Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed a bill to eliminate the criminal statutes of limitations on future cases involving child sexual abuse. The move extends the deadline for victims to pursue civil cases up to when they turn 50 and opens a two-year window for civil suits to be brought by older victims seeking damages from their abusers.
- Sept. 26, 2018: Lori, the archbishop of Baltimore, said in a statement that the archdiocese had “been in discussions” with Maryland’s attorney general about an investigation into clergy abuse.
- Oct. 2, 2018: In a statement, the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo in New York announced that “after receiving an abuse complaint against Father Louis S. Dolinic,” Bishop Richard J. Malone placed Dolinic on administrative leave as “an investigation continues.”
- Oct. 4, 2018: Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi announced a new tip line for residents to call in complaints of clergy sex abuse. The move was part of what Bondi called an “ongoing investigation into all seven Catholic dioceses in the state.” The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is assisting with the statewide investigation, according to a statement.
- Oct. 8, 2018: The Diocese of Owensboro, Kentucky, released statistics on child sexual abuse allegations against priests. The diocese reports that, of the 366 priests who have worked at Owensboro since its founding in 1937, there have been allegations brought by 62 people against 27 priests. “The diocese has only received four allegations of incidents that have occured after 2002,” according to the report.
- Oct. 10, 2018: All 15 Catholic dioceses in Texas and the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, a diocese-like community that ministers to people seeking to become Catholic, officially announced an agreement to publish a list of clergy in the state credibly accused of sexually abusing minors. Each diocese will publish their lists by Jan. 31, 2019.
- Oct. 10, 2018: The head of the pope’s commission on the protection of minors, Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston,, planned to forward investigative reports by WKBW-TV on the handling of alleged clergy sex abuse in Buffalo, New York, to the top Vatican diplomat in the U.S. “It is the Cardinal’s assessment that the information in your reports should be reviewed by the Church authorities who have oversight and jurisdiction for the action or inaction of diocesan leadership in Buffalo with regard to the reports of abuse,” Boston archdiocesan spokesperson Terrence Donilon told the station.
- Oct. 12, 2018: Pope Francis announced he would accept Wuerl’s resignation. Wuerl submitted his resignation when he turned 75 years old, as required of all bishops under church law. But Francis had not acted upon that offer until now. He asked Wuerl stay on as a temporary administrator of the archdiocese until a successor is chosen.
- Oct. 17, 2018: The Rev. David Poulson pleaded guilty to molesting two boys while serving as a priest in the Diocese of Erie, Pennsylvania. According to the grand jury’s presentment from May, two victims testified that they had been abused by Poulson while camping with him at his cabin. Poulson was one of two priests — the Rev. James Sweeney of the Diocese of Greensburg was the other — to be charged as part of the grand jury investigation. As part of the plea agreement, Poulson said he would request laicization, or removal from the priesthood, GoErie reported.
- Oct. 17, 2018: The Pennsylvania Senate left the capitol without voting on legislation that would adopt reforms recommended by the grand jury’s report. Senate Bill 261 would have allowed now-adult victims of clergy abuse a two-year window to bring a civil case. Shapiro, in a statement, criticized the Republican leadership for the hold-up. A new Legislature will convene in January.
- Oct. 18, 2018: In California, the Diocese of San Jose released a list of names and the current statuses of 15 priests credibly accused of sexual abuse against minors dating back to 1981. Kathleen McChesney, a former FBI executive assistant director, is leading a team in actively compiling an independent audit of the diocese. In a statement, Bishop Patrick J. McGrath wrote that “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.”
- Oct. 18, 2018: The Diocese of Buffalo said in a statement that “several months ago,” it received a call “from the local U.S. Attorney’s office with a request to review documents.” Once a subpoena was served and “after some discussion, an agreement was reached to produce documents.” The diocese added: “We have heard nothing since early June.”
- Oct. 18, 2018: Several Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania confirmed that they have been served with subpoenas by the DOJ.
- Oct. 22, 2018: The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia opened a direct line of communication between survivors of clergy sexual abuse and investigators with a new hotline and email address. According to a Department of Justice press release, all communications will be reviewed by a team of criminal investigators, prosecutors and victim advocates. The Superior Court Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office “will determine whether any criminal charges can be brought or victim services provided,” according to the statement.
- Oct. 23, 2018: Washington, D.C.’s attorney general, Karl Racine, announced that his office “is investigating whether the Archdiocese of Washington covered up allegations of sexual abuse of minors,” he said in a tweet. The civil investigation is primarily focused on whether the Archdiocese broke the city’s Nonprofit Act, but the office “also has the authority to bring criminal charges against [those] who fail to report instances of abuse or neglect,” according to an online complaint form.
- Oct. 23, 2018: The Archdiocese of Anchorage, Alaska, formed an independent commission to look at the personnel files of all religious men and women and all allegations of sexual misconduct against lay employees and volunteers. Archdiocesan Chancellor John Harmon told the NewsHour that the review by the three-member panel will probably take about nine months, and that Archbishop Paul Etienne’s “intent is to publish names” of those credibly accused of misconduct. The Alaska Department of Law told the NewsHour that it was made aware of the commission’s formation and it is prepared to assist the archdiocese if necessary.
- Oct. 24, 2018: Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring announced a new hotline and website “as part of an ongoing investigation” into child abuse at the hands of clergy that may have taken place in the commonwealth’s Catholic dioceses, and whether those dioceses “may have covered up or abetted any such crimes,” according to a statement. “If there has been abuse or cover-up in Virginia like there was in Pennsylvania I want to know about it, I want to root it out, and I want to help survivors get justice and get on a path to healing,” Herring said in the statement. Both Virginia-based dioceses, Arlington and Richmond, said they are cooperating with the attorney general’s office and highlighted their own internal investigations.
- Oct. 24, 2018: The Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, which covers all of the state of West Virginia, announced it would release the names of priests, deacons and other religious figures credibly accused of sexually abusing children of whom it was aware in its records going back to 1950.
- Oct. 28, 2018: Siobhan O’Connor, the former executive assistant to Buffalo Bishop Richard Malone, spoke to CBS’ “60 Minutes” about documents she found and shared with the news media that showed the diocese had withheld names of priests accused of sexual abuse from the public. “I felt that instead of being transparent, we were almost being the opposite, or half transparent,” she said.
- Oct. 31, 2018: The Diocese of Sioux City, Iowa, said it never made public the admission by a priest in 1986 that he victimized at least 50 children over two decades, according to a report by the Associated Press. The diocese detailed Rev. Jerome Coyle’s past behavior in a letter to a couple who had allowed him to live in their New Mexico home up until June. “The letter was very scary for us as parents,” the couple told the AP.
- Nov. 8, 2018: Seven of the eight Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania — Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Erie, Allentown, Greensburg, Scranton and Harrisburg — announced new compensation programs for victims of clergy abuse. The Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown said in a statement it “has been committed to providing pastoral care and financial support to the victims and survivors of sexual abuse” for the past two decades.
- Nov. 12, 2018: At a national meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore, the body’s president said that the group will delay votes on clergy abuse measures to address the crisis “at the insistence of the Holy See.” Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, who made the comments, said the Vatican wanted the bishops to wait until after a February summit at the Vatican. “Although I am disappointed … I remain hopeful that this additional consultation will ultimately improve our response to the crisis we face,” DiNardo said. A victims’ advocacy organization, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), said in a statement that it was “disappointed” by the Vatican’s action. “We hope that this means that, at the meeting between the pope and presidents of bishops’ conferences in February, concrete steps will be taken to ensure accountability for bishops who cover-up abuse,” the group said, adding, “It is clear that a real response is needed in order to prevent future abuse, deter more cover-ups, and ensure accountability for bishops who fail to protect children and vulnerable adults. Today’s action by the Vatican makes us wary that such a real response will be taken.”
- Nov. 12, 2018: The Archdiocese of Seattle confirmed to the NewsHour that it “has reached settlements over the past two months in seven individual cases involving allegations of clergy sexual abuse.” In a statement, the archdiocese noted that “the alleged abuse occurred between 30 and 60 years ago” and it “attempted to arrive at fair and just settlements to assist victims with healing and to achieve some measure of closure.”
- Nov. 28, 2018: In a statement to the NewsHour, the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston confirmed that the District Attorney of Montgomery County, Texas executed a search warrant for “secret archives” — a Church term pertaining to confidential documents kept in a secure manner — related to “an ongoing investigation.” Law enforcement officials seized documents related to Rev. Manuel La Rosa-Lopez, who has been accused of sexually abusing children during his tenure at Sacred Heart Catholic Church.
- Dec. 3, 2018: The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled it will not release the identities of 11 Catholic priests named as offenders in the grand jury report released in August. State Attorney General Josh Shapiro said in a statement to the NewsHour that “while this order bars me from releasing the names of these 11 petitioners, nothing in this order prevents the dioceses from sharing the shielded names with their parishioners and the public. I call on the bishops to do so immediately, consistent with their recent calls for transparency.” Justice Deborah Todd wrote in her majority opinion that Pennsylvania’s high court acknowledges that their decision may be “unsatisfying” to abuse victims and the public. “While we understand and empathize with these perspectives,” Todd wrote, “constitutional rights are of the highest order, and even alleged sexual abusers, or those abetting them, are guaranteed by our Commonwealth’s Constitution the right of due process.”
- Dec. 6, 2018: The Archdiocese of Los Angeles announced it had added 54 names to its list of priests accused of sexually abusing minors. The new names were the first that had been added to the list since 2008.
- Dec. 6, 2018: Advocates for sexual abuse survivors said “it is believed” the seventh-largest diocese in the country, Orange, California, “does not make available to the public the full history, knowledge and context of the sexually abusive clerics within” its territory. A report by the law firm Jeff Anderson & Associates names 72 priests who served in the diocese and have been accused of sexual misconduct. In response, the Rev. Stephen Doktorczyk, the diocesan vicar general, noted a 2016 list that includes 14 names. “While efforts are in place to expand the original parameters of the list, it must be made clear that the number of known abusers holding the rank of cleric in the history of the Diocese of Orange is nowhere close to the figure of 72 recently suggested in public,” he said. “Moreover, there are no known child sex offenders in active ministry in the Diocese.”
- Dec. 7, 2018: The Jesuits U.S. Central and Southern Province, the organization that governs Jesuit priests in parts of the Midwest and South, released a list of 42 priests “with credible allegations of sexual abuse of a minor.” The organization’s provincial, the Rev. Ronald Mercier S.J., said in a statement that an audit would be conducted in the spring of 2019 to review personnel files going back to 1955. The province covers Jesuits serving in Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, southern Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, Texas, Tennessee and Oklahoma, in addition to Puerto Rico and the country of Belize.
- Dec. 7, 2018: Jesuits West, which governs Jesuit priests in Arizona, Alaska, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Washington, released a list of 111 priests “with credible claims of sexual abuse of a minor or vulnerable adult” dating back to 1950. The organization’s provincial, the Rev. Scott Santarosa S.J., said in a statement that a review of the organization’s files would take place in the spring of 2019.
- Dec. 14, 2018: St. Paul-Minneapolis Archbishop Bernard Hebda said in a letter to parishioners in the archdiocese this month that, in 2016, he sent an allegation of inappropriate conduct with minors against his predecessor, John Nienstedt, to the Vatican’s representative in the U.S. Hebda said Nienstedt “denies this ever happened.” Nienstedt, who resigned in 2015, was previously the subject of an investigation opened in 2014 into allegations of sexual misconduct with adult men. Hebda also said in the recent letter that Nienstedt “would not be free to exercise public ministry in this archdiocese until all open allegations are resolved.”
- Dec. 17, 2018: Jesuits Maryland Province released the names of priests who are currently serving, or who have served, within its territory “who have been credibly accused of sexual abuse of minors since 1950.” The province governs Jesuits serving in South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, Virginia, West Virginia, southern New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland and the District of Columbia.
- Dec. 17, 2018: The USA Midwest Province of the Jesuits released the names of 65 Jesuit priests “with an established allegation of sexual abuse of a minor in this region since 1955,” according to a letter from the Rev. Brian Paulson S.J., the organization’s provincial. “An established allegation is based on the facts and circumstances where there is a reasonable certainty that the accusation is true,” he said. Paulson noted in his letter that “an additional review of our records” would take place in 2019. The Midwest Province covers Jesuit priests serving in Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, and the northern and eastern parts of Illinois.
- Dec. 19, 2018: Outgoing Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, a Democrat, said Catholic dioceses throughout the state have received allegations of sexual abuse against more than 500 clergy members that have not been publicly disclosed. In many cases, allegations received by the dioceses were either inadequately investigated or not looked into at all, according to a report issued by the attorney general’s office, which is investigating clergy sex abuse. “The preliminary stages of this investigation have already demonstrated that the Catholic Church cannot police itself,” Madigan said in a statement. “Allegations of sexual abuse of minors, even if they stem from conduct that occurred many years ago, cannot be treated as internal personnel matters.” Incoming state Attorney General Kwame Raoul, a Democrat, said in a statement on his campaign site that he is “committed to continuing this investigation” when he begins his term in office.
The PBS NewsHour’s Joshua Barajas contributed to this report.