ST. LOUIS — Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt on Friday will release a long-awaited report on his office’s statewide investigation into sex crimes within the Roman Catholic Church, in what would be the most extensive accounting by law enforcement of alleged clergy sex abuses and cover-ups in the state.
But even before the release of Schmitt’s findings, David Clohessy, with the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, is criticizing the attorney general’s office because it has said it lacks criminal jurisdiction, which would give it the ability to issue subpoenas and convene a grand jury. Clohessy also said investigators did not interview longtime advocates of survivors of clergy sex abuse and attorneys who have represented hundreds of victims in court cases.
“This whitewash is precisely what we predicted and feared: apparently no subpoenas issued, no hearings held, no hotlines established, and no experts consulted,” Clohessy said in a written statement Thursday.
But Chris Nuelle, a spokesperson for Schmitt’s office, said no one beside Schmitt’s staff has seen the report, which will be released at a 10 a.m. press conference at Schmitt’s office in downtown St. Louis.
“Nobody outside the attorney general’s staff has seen this report,” Nuelle said Thursday. “Therefore, any comment on the report before its release and review is counterproductive and entirely premature, and we will let the report speak for itself upon its release.”
The report comes little more than a year after Schmitt’s predecessor, U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley, announced his office would review records from four Catholic Church dioceses in Missouri.
It also comes weeks after the Archdiocese of St. Louis released its own list of former clergy it found had substantiated allegations of sexual abuse of a minor against them. A spokesman with the archdiocese declined to comment Thursday on Schmitt’s report.
Other Catholic dioceses across the country have released similar lists, and other state attorneys general have launched investigations into clergy sex abuse as part of the continuing fallout from a Pennsylvania grand jury report in August that detailed abuse of more than 1,000 people by hundreds of priests in the state.
In December, former Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan released preliminary findings — five months after launching an investigation — that found allegations of child sexual abuse against at least 500 clergy across the state’s six dioceses that church officials knew about but never made public.
In January, Schmitt said that an estimated 70 people completed an online form saying they were either a victim or a witness to abuse by Catholic priests, up from a 50 survivors and potential witnesses who contacted the office within a month after Hawley announced the investigation. But other details of the investigation, including how many attorneys were working on the case, have not been released.
On the heels of the Pennsylvania report, survivors of clergy sexual abuse and their advocates rallied outside Hawley’s St. Louis office to demand he launch a statewide investigation.
He announced the investigation the next day, after the Archdiocese of St. Louis invited his office to review its records with “unfettered” access. His attorneys also inspected records in the other dioceses of the Catholic Church in Missouri, including Kansas City-St. Joseph, Springfield-Cape Girardeau and Jefferson City. Those records include personnel files, records relating to allegations of abuse, and other potentially relevant materials from Catholic organizations across the state.
But abuse victim advocates were skeptical because Hawley said prosecuting and subpoena authority rested with local law enforcement. He said his office would review Catholic records, investigate alleged crimes, publish a public report and refer credible cases to local prosecutors.
Under Schmitt, the investigation also remained within those lines, Clohessy said.
“Looking through old files voluntarily shared by wrongdoers is no investigation,” he said. “Catholic officials shrewdly conceal child sex crimes and have for decades. Why would they do a sudden turnaround and disclose damning information they’ve successfully fought for ages to hide?”
Clergy sex abuse victims and their advocates have maintained that there are Catholic clergy who are proven, admitted or credibly accused sexual abusers but have not been prosecuted or publicly identified as alleged abusers even after dioceses have named dozens of priests.
The Archdiocese of St. Louis on July 26 released names of 61 clergy with substantiated allegations of sexual abuse of a minor and three who possessed child pornography. The archdiocese added the names of two alleged abusers on Aug. 30. But the list lacked details about the accusations or information about what parishes the clergy served.
Twenty-six clergy identified in the list had never been publicly reported to have been accused of abuse, according to a Post-Dispatch review.
The list also did not include clergy under Catholic orders, like the Marianists. The Archdiocese of St. Louis has said those orders will publish their own lists.
Last week, the Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese released a list of 19 clerics who Bishop James Johnston Jr. said had substantiated allegations of sexual abuse of children against them. It was the last of the four dicoceses in Missouri to release such a list. The Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau identified three priests and the Diocese of Jefferson City listed 35 credibly accused priests or religious brothers
And the Jesuits U.S. Central and Southern Province, which includes Missouri and Southern Illinois, released a list that included 24 clerics who worked in the St. Louis area. Twelve of them worked at St. Louis University High School during their ministry.