District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine announced Tuesday that he is opening an investigation into the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington regarding sexual abuse by the clergy.
While felony cases are handled in D.C. by the U.S. attorney’s office, Racine’s investigation into the archdiocese is under his authority to enforce a law governing nonprofit groups and a law mandating the reporting of sexual abuse.
“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,” Racine said in remarks his office sent to Townhall from a Mayor-Council breakfast Tuesday morning.
“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,” Racine explained.
In addition to the investigation, Racine announced a new portal for victims of clergy abuse in D.C. to report their abuse to his office.
Roman Catholic dioceses throughout the country are facing civil investigations after a shocking Pennsylvania grand jury report detailing over 1,000 instances of sexual abuse by 300 priests and cover-ups by bishops.
Racine also pointed out that his investigation brings the number of states with open investigations into Catholic clergy sexual abuse to 14.
New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood subpoenaed every one of the eight Roman Catholic dioceses in the state in September as part of a civil investigation into the church’s sex abuse and cover-up scandal.
Attorneys general in Maryland, Nebraska, Illinois, New Mexico, Kentucky, Missouri, New Jersey, and Wyoming have also opened investigations into the sex abuse scandal in their Catholic dioceses.
The Archdiocese of Washington in particular has faced high levels of scrutiny due to credible allegations that former Washington archbishop Theodore McCarrick molested seminarians and a teenager. McCarrick resigned his position and has been removed from public ministry pending a full investigation.
In addition to the revelations about McCarrick, D.C. Cardinal Donald Wuerl resigned earlier this month after he was named 170 times in the Pennsylvania grand jury report for mishandling abuse allegations.
It took months for Pope Francis to accept Wuerl’s resignation and he downplayed the accusations against Wuerl when he did finally succumb to public pressure and allow him to step down.
Pope Francis is also facing criticism for his handling of allegations against McCarrick from his former apostolic nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò.
Viganò accused the pope of knowing about and ignoring sanctions placed on then-Cardinal McCarrick by Pope Benedict XVI due to his sexual misconduct with seminarians.
He stated in a bombshell letter in August that the pope did “not take into account the sanctions that Pope Benedict had imposed on" McCarrick and made him “his trusted counselor” who advised the appointment of many bishops in the United States, including Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago and Joseph Tobin of Newark.
The pope said that he would not say a “single word” on the accusations and refused to even answer a question about when he first knew of McCarrick’s behavior. He told journalists to read Viganò’s letter and make their own conclusions.
During the sex abuse scandal in Chile earlier this year, Pope Francis was forced to apologize for his own “errors in judgment” after calling accusations of cover-up against Bishop Juan Barros a “calumny” for years. He admitted to sex abuse survivors that he had been “part of the problem” in that instance. He accepted Barros’s resignation in June.