On Thursday last week, the New York attorney general's office subpoenaed all the Catholic dioceses in the state. This makes the state of New York the latest one to examine the Catholic Church in the wake of last month's grand jury report out of Pennsylvania.
The report in Pennsylvania found that more than 300 priests raped or abused over 1,000 children over a period of 70 years. The report also revealed details about how higher members of the church hierarchy not only knew about the abuse, but participated in covering it up.
The Washington Post reported that the attorney general's office sent subpoenas to eight Catholic dioceses in New York. Shortly after news broke about New York, New Jersey's attorney general quickly followed. It was announced on Thursday that a criminal task force in New Jersey would be examining Catholic clergy abuse of minors in that state.
New Mexico, Nebraska, and Missouri also have inquiries underway.
New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood said in her statement, "The Pennsylvania grand jury report shined a light on incredibly disturbing and depraved acts by Catholic clergy, assisted by a culture of secrecy and cover ups in the dioceses. Victims in New York deserve to be heard as well -- and we are going to do everything in our power to bring them the justice they deserve."
In New Jersey, Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said, "I was deeply troubled to read the allegations contained in last month's Pennsylvania grand jury report. The report revealed that sexual assaults on children -- and efforts to cover up such assaults -- were far more widespread in Pennsylvania than we ever thought possible."
How is the Vatican responding to all this mounting pressure? Well, earlier last week, on Monday, Pope Francis was speaking at a homily at the Vatican when he said, “With people who don’t have good will, who seek only scandal, who want only division, who seek only destruction — including within the family: silence, prayer.”
Francis also said, “the truth is humble, the truth is silent” and concluded with the prayer, “May the Lord give us the grace to discern when we should speak and when we should stay silent.”
That appears to be Pope Francis's strategy for dealing with all this increasing pressure: silence. I did write about a letter that Francis wrote last month following the grand jury report's release. In that letter though, all Francis really offers is "penance and prayer" as a solution. Nothing else.
I hope that more states take up the fight and investigate their dioceses. If the investigations uncover anything like what we learned in the Pennsylvania report, then there is likely a monumental amount of truly disturbing acts that have been covered up by church leaders. The only way to protect future children, and to perhaps give some measure of justice for the victims, is to conduct the investigations and bring these things to light.