DC attorney general: ‘We’re not targeting the archdiocese’ with mandatory-reporting bill

WASHINGTON — With the past two archbishops of D.C. — Cardinals Donald Wuerl and Theodore McCarrick — at the center of the national discussion on clergy sex abuse, the District’s attorney general is proposing legislation to add clergy to the list of “mandatory reporters.”

Why now?

“We’re not targeting the archdiocese, or any other religious entity,” Attorney General Karl Racine told WTOP. “What we’re doing is seeking to protect young people.”

A spokesman for the Archdiocese of Washington, Ed McFadden, told WTOP that the archdiocese has “trained and required all priests, religious employees and all volunteers of the archdiocese to serve as mandated reporters,” and suggested that the District is now catching up with the church.

“We, of course, have met with the archdiocese lawyers,” said Racine. “We also have a faith-based council, which is an informal group that we meet with from time to time” to discuss laws that may affect religious institutions, he added.

“I’ve got to tell you that the overwhelming majority of the faith-based community was supportive of the direction we were going,” Racine said.

The Washington Archdiocese’s policy was instituted in 2002, McFadden said.

Racine encouraged other religious entities to work within their institutions to prevent clergy sex abuse.

“We would applaud any kind of internal checks and balances, but I also think it’s important that the District of Columbia set up processes and systems, to ensure the self-reporting is being done correctly,” he said.

Racine’s bill would add clergy to teachers, health-care workers and others to the list of those required to report suspected abuse to police the Child and Family Services Agency.

Mandatory reporters could be fined up to $2,500 and 180 days in jail for a first instance of failing to report.

Racine said training requirements would be an important part of the law.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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