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Victims Call for Federal Investigation of Sex Abuse in Catholic Church

Some victims of clergy sex abuse and their supporters are calling on federal and state entities to investigate sex abuse within the Catholic Church and root out abusers and anyone who has protected them.

Members of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, known as SNAP, and Voice of the Faithful, a Catholic group that provides support to victims of clergy sex abuse, held childhood photos of sex abuse victims at a news conference Aug. 21 outside the headquarters of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington.

They said they have contacted the U.S. Department of Justice about investigating sex abuse of children by clerics in the Catholic Church and called on attorneys general in every state to open probes similar to the one carried out by a grand jury in Pennsylvania.

The investigation by the Pennsylvania grand jury, made public in a report released Aug. 14, detailed more than 1,000 claims of alleged sex abuse in six dioceses in the state over 70 years and identified 301 priests who may have committed the crimes. It took almost two years to compile. The dioceses of Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, Allentown, Scranton, Greensburg and Erie were named in the report.

The majority of the cases, however, could not be prosecuted because the statute of limitations, which allows a limited period of time to pursue legal action, had come and gone.

One of the those present at the news conference, Judy Lorenz, whose husband, David, was sexually abused by a priest in Kentucky in the 1970s, also called on Catholics in the pews to take action, by supporting anyone who has been victimized by a member of the clergy, and by joining any public protest against Catholic clergy who may have covered up possible crimes, to stop tithing or donating to the church until those responsible step down.

“I want them to do something,” she said. “Stop sitting in the pews.”

In a statement, Lorenz called on Catholics to attend an action Aug. 26 at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington, the seat of Washington’s archbishop, Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl. He has come under fire after the publication of the report. He was bishop of Pittsburgh from 1988 until 2006, and the report criticized his handling of abuse cases during his tenure there.

“If they’re upset,” she said, referring to Catholics, “show up.”

Read more at Catholic News Services