Illinois, Missouri Launch Investigations into Catholic Church Sex Abuse

Cardinals attend Pope Francis' inaugural Mass in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Tuesday, March 19, 2013. Pope Francis has officially begun his ministry as the 266th pope, receiving the ring symbolizing the papacy and a wool stole symbolizing his role as shepherd of his 1.2-billion strong flock. (AP Photo/Andrew …
AP Photo/Andrew Medichini

The attorney generals in Illinois and Missouri have announced investigations into the Catholic Church’s sexual abuse scandal.

This comes on the heels of a scathing grand jury report released this month out of Pennsylvania that details a 70-year Church cover up to protect some 300 predator priests and other Church officials accused of abusing upwards of 1,000 children.

Attorney General Lisa Madigan announced Thursday she is opening a statewide inquiry of the six dioceses in Illinois.

“We have reviewed the Pennsylvania grand jury report, which identifies at least seven priests with connections to Illinois,” Madigan’s office told ABC7. “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.”

“The Catholic Church has a moral obligation to provide its parishioners and the public a complete and accurate accounting of all sexually inappropriate behavior involving priests,” Madigan’s office added.

A spokesperson for the archdiocese told ABC7 that they “look forward to discussing our policies and procedures related to misconduct issues with her and her office.”

Madigan also put the Church on notice that unless there is full cooperation, she “will work with states attorneys and law enforcement throughout Illinois to investigate.”

The St. Louis Dispatch reports Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley is going even further with “an investigation into sex crimes within the Roman Catholic Church.”

Hawley is a Republican running to unseat Democrat U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill this year.

While speaking to reporters, Hawley said, “While my office does not have jurisdiction at the present time to prosecute any criminal acts of this nature, or again to issue subpoenas to investigate it, it would be possible to conduct a thorough and robust investigation of potential clergy abuse if the various dioceses were willing to cooperate.”

He added that in a letter St. Louis Archbishop Robert Carlson agreed to “open to my office their files and allow us to conduct a thorough, impartial review of potential clergy abuse.”

During his own news conference, Carlson said the office of the Attorney General will have “unfettered” access to Church records.

After the bombshell report out of Pennsylvania, which dropped a decade after rank-and-file Catholics had been promised this was behind them and there were no more secrets, it would be wise if each archdiocese in each of the 47 remaining states were to volunteer to open their records to local government officials and the media.

A full and final accounting, a full and final housecleaning that would finally and forever assure the Faithful no more shoes will drop, is probably the only way forward for an institution that may have already run out of second chances.

Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC. Follow his Facebook Page here.

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