WASHINGTON — With the launch of a federal investigation into several Catholic dioceses last week, federal prosecutor Jessie Liu has announced the opening of a hotline for victims of sexual abuse by clergy in the District of Columbia.
The hotline, announced Monday, is being launched in collaboration with the Superior Court Division’s Sex Offense and Domestic Violence Section and the Victim Witness Assistance Unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia.
There is both an email address and a phone number where “survivors of child sexual abuse by clergy who wish to share their experiences and/or those who have knowledge of such abuse” can make incident reports “for potential criminal investigation and prosecution,” said an announcement published by Liu’s office.
Survivors of child sexual abuse by a clergy member that took place in the District of Columbia “in a house of worship, school or other location” can make reports to the
“Clergy-Abuse Reporting Line” at (202) 252-7008 or by email at USADC.ReportClergyAbuse@usdoj.gov.
“All reports will be reviewed, and a team of experienced criminal investigators, prosecutors and victim advocates from the Superior Court Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office will determine whether any criminal charges can be brought or victim services provided,” the announcement states. “The victim advocates, who are part of the Victim Witness Assistance Unit, are available to offer support and guidance to survivors who wish to report.”
The creation of such a hotline comes at the end of the so-called “summer of scandal,” during which numerous accusations of abuse surfaced against former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, a grand jury report from Pennsylvania detailed decades of clerical abuse, and former Vatican nuncio Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò accused Vatican officials, including Pope Francis, of failing to sufficiently respond to reports of misconduct on McCarrick’s part.
It also comes about a week after Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl, who has been the subject of criticism since late June, when revelations about alleged sexual misconduct on the part of his predecessor, McCarrick, raised questions about what Cardinal Wuerl knew about McCarrick and how he responded to that knowledge.
The announcement of the hotline also shortly followed the federal government’s launch of an investigation into seven of the eight Catholic dioceses in the state of Pennsylvania, as well as the Diocese of Buffalo in New York, which is also being investigated by its state attorney general’s office.
According to documents obtained by local media, the Diocese of Buffalo appears to have been served with a subpoena from the U.S. attorney’s office in late May or early June of this year, though it was only made public last week.
Emails between Buffalo’s Bishop Richard Malone, his staff and attorney mention the words “subpoena” and “grand jury” as early as May 31 of this year, Channel 7 Eyewitness News WKBW in Buffalo, an ABC affiliate, reported.
In those emails, Bishop Malone said he found it “encouraging” that the scope of the investigation would likely be small, based on the criteria of the probe. He also said that he hoped any prosecutable cases would be “all men (already) removed from ministry.”
A source told WKBW that the subpoena was related “to pornography, taking victims across state lines and use of cellphones/social media.”
On Oct. 18, the Diocese of Buffalo released a statement acknowledging that a federal subpoena was served to the diocese “several months ago.”
“A subpoena was provided, and after some discussion, an agreement was reached to produce documents. We have heard nothing since early June. As far as we know, our response has nothing to do with the current Pennsylvania investigation that has just begun.”