Va. joins DC, Md. by opening investigation into clergy abuse

WASHINGTON — Virginia has opened an investigation into whether leadership in Virginia’s Catholic dioceses covered up the sexual abuse of children.

Maryland and the District both opened investigations into their respective dioceses in the past few weeks.

On Oct. 24, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring launched a hotline for reporting clergy abuse as part of the investigation:

The hotline is available 24/7 and is staffed by Virginia State Police investigators during regular business hours.

According to a press release, the hotline was created after a grand jury report revealed that sexual abuse and cover-ups perpetrated by the Pennsylvania Catholic clergy persisted for decades.

“Like so many Americans, I read the grand jury report on clergy abuse in the Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania, and I felt sick. It made me sick to see the extent of the damage done, the efforts to cover it up, and the complicity and enabling that went on by powerful people who should have known better and should have done more to protect vulnerable children,” said Herring.

“We shouldn’t assume the behavior and the problems are limited just to Pennsylvania or to one diocese. 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.”

Bishop Michael Burbidge from the Diocese of Arlington and Bishop Barry Knestout from the Diocese of Richmond issued a joint statement to assure the public that both dioceses are cooperating with the investigation.

“Any instance of child sexual abuse is intolerable and gravely immoral. We hope that this process will bring healing for all victims and confirm our commitment to accountability and justice,” the statement said.

The Diocese of Arlington sent out a press release on Sept. 21 stating that it had started an internal investigation as a result of the Pennsylvania grand jury report. The Diocese of Richmond sent out a similar press release on Sept. 14.

In the joint statement, both dioceses implore anyone who knows about sexual abuse by the clergy to report it using the attorney general’s hotline.

Virginia is the 15th state or territory to open an investigation into clergy abuse by the Catholic Church.

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