300 Catholic priests tortured 1,000 children in Pennsylvania.

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia has confirmed the United States Justice Department has initiated an investigation into the child sexual abuse which occurred within the confines of the Roman Catholic Church in Pennsylvania. The dioceses of Scranton, Allentown, Pittsburgh, Erie, and Greensburg acknowledged that they were recipients of federal subpoenas. Reverend Nicholas S. Vaskov, the spokesman of the archdiocese, has assured that the church will fully cooperate with all sexual abuse investigations launched and conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice.

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) has asked for a federal investigation into Catholic Church since 2003, the year the Vatican was rocked by widespread clergy sex abuse. The federal action has been described as “long overdue” by David Clohessy, the former national director of SNAP. He said that this federal probe into the crimes of the U.S. Catholic Church is probably the first of its kind.

Subpoenas were served by federal prosecutors to the church during the second week of October after a report authored by a grand jury published in August discovered priests molesting in excess of 1,000 children in Pennsylvania. The Justice Department has issued subpoenas to the Erie archdiocese, and the latter has confirmed the same. The archdiocese said its counsel is interacting with the federal investigators. Hundreds of priests have allegedly molested about 1,000 children beginning from the 1940s, and the abuse was willfully covered up by senior church officials.

The Justice Department is also investigating Diocese of Buffalo in New York. A number of groups which represent survivors of abuse say that this appears to be the maiden federal probe of this scope and size by the U.S. Catholic clergy. Only two priests were charged after an investigation lasting two years. This is the statute of limitations ran out. The Pennsylvania report however pushed officials in other U.S. states to start inquiries into sexual misconduct allegations by the Catholic clergy.

As per the grand jury, the total number of abusive clergy members is in the region of 300. In almost all cases, there has been an exhaustion of statute of limitations. It means the federal government could not file criminal charges. About 100 priests have died, and some are retired. A few have already been dismissed from the priesthood and a few forced to go on a leave. Josh Shapiro, the Attorney General, said that priests were engaged in rape of little girls and boys and those who should be responsible for vulnerable children did nothing.

Resources

Follow the Conversation on Twitter