ST. LOUIS • Survivors of clergy sexual abuse are demanding Missouri's top prosecutor launch a statewide investigation into alleged sex crimes by Catholic priests.
The call comes on the heels of a grand jury investigation in Pennsylvania that uncovered the widespread abuse of more than 1,000 children by more than 300 priests. The report alleges that bishops and other leaders of the Roman Catholic Church in Pennsylvania covered up child sexual abuse over a period of 70 years.
"We believe we have exactly the same issues as they do in Pennsylvania," said Nicole Gorovsky, a former Missouri assistant attorney general, former federal prosecutor and private attorney who specializes in child sexual abuse cases.
Gorovsky was one of three advocates with the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests who gathered outside Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley's office downtown on Wednesday to demand he launch an investigation.
Advocates with the St. Louis-based organization claimed there are at least 170 Catholic clerics in Missouri who are proven, admitted or credibly accused sexual abusers but say that few have been prosecuted. They accused top church officials of continuing to cover up allegations over the years.
“It defies common sense to think that this ancient, rigid, secretive all-male monarchy behaves in one fashion on this side of the river and a different fashion on the other side of the river," said David Clohessy, a former director of SNAP who was sexually abused by a clergy member as a teenager in Jefferson City.
Hawley's office has said it doesn't have jurisdiction to launch the type of investigation SNAP is calling for.
Gorovsky disagreed. She said Hawley could explore a number of options including coordinating the effort among local prosecutors, helping target top church officials accused of covering up abuse and filing a civil suit against the Roman Catholic Church.
“He is the chief law enforcement officer for the state..." she said. "Mr. Hawley can do a whole number of things with his position that other people just don't have the ability to do.”
As a prosecutor and private attorney, Gorovsky has represented alleged victims of sexual abuse by clergy in each of Missouri's four Roman Catholic dioceses, she said.
"It's an issue for the entire state," she said.
With Clohessy and Gorovsky was Mary Ellen Kruger of Webster Groves, whose son was a 14-year-old student at Bishop DuBourg High School when he was abused by a clergy member and teacher in 1984.
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His abusers served prison sentences, but her son killed himself in 1991 at the age of 21, said Kruger, a former chair of the SNAP board of directors. She said that she felt her son "never got justice."
"You can get civil suits filed and settlements, but they don't take away the damage," she said. "It's not something that goes away."
A spokesman for the Archdiocese of St. Louis told the Associated Press that Archbishop Robert Carlson "has heard many recommendations for action items in the wake of the grand jury report from Pennsylvania and is prayerfully considering what steps to take to demonstrate accountability and transparency in confronting the evil of sexual abuse by clergy."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.