AG investigating possible cover-up of clergy abuse at Washington Archdiocese

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia has opened a civil investigation into the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington over clergy abuse.

There are now 14 states and territories with open investigations into clergy abuse by the Catholic Church.

Since the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington is a nonprofit, covering up sexual abuse allegations would be a violation of the organization’s standing.

“While we generally don’t talk publicly about our confidential enforcement activity, I can report that our office has launched a civil investigation into whether the Archdiocese — which is a nonprofit institution — violated the District’s Nonprofit Act by potentially covering up allegations of sexual abuse of minors,” Attorney General Karl Racine said at the Mayor-Council breakfast Tuesday.

“According to the law, nonprofits are required to work for a public purpose; if they are in fact covering up child sex abuse, that is clearly not in the public interest.”

Following the attorney’s office announcement, the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington released a statement that said attorneys for the archdiocese briefed Racine last month on the organization’s efforts to prevent and respond to the sexual abuse claims.

In the statement, the archdiocese said it has a zero tolerance policy, and that there has been no sex abuse of minors by clergy in the organization for the past 20 years.

“The Archdiocese of Washington remains committed to a collaborative and transparent review process because there is not now, and has not been for decades, any problem of abuse of minors by clergy of the Archdiocese of Washington,” said Kim Viti Fiorentino, general counsel for the archdiocese.

“Zero tolerance has been mandated in this archdiocese and zero abuse is the result.”

This statement comes a few weeks after the archdiocese released a list of the 28 priests from the organization with what they deemed to be credible accusations of sexual abuse against them.

On its blog, the attorney’s office posted a list of new ways that victims can report sex abuse by archdiocese clergy, including a new site specifically for reporting clergy abuse:

In response to the allegations of sexual abuse by Pennsylvania clergy, the office also created a hotline and email address for victims to report their abuse.

That list includes phone numbers and web links for reporting, as well as information about who is mandated to report sex abuse by law. Any adult who knows or believes a child under the age of 16 is being sexually abused is compelled by law to report it to the police or to D.C.’s Child and Family Services Agency.

Furthermore, people who work with children in D.C. — including teachers, school officials, health care and day care employees — have to report suspected abuse or neglect for any child under the age of 18.

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