ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KFVS) - Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt announced 12 former clergy members in the Roman Catholic Church could face criminal prosecution after a 13 month investigation.
AG Schmitt made the announcement Friday morning, Sept. 13 in St. Louis.
The investigation of allegations of sexual abuse or misconduct in the Roman Catholic Church was launched last year by then-Attorney General Josh Hawley.
As part of the investigation Schmitt said the Attorney General’s Office reviewed every available personnel record of every priest serving in the Archdiocese of St. Louis, the Diocese of Kansas City – St. Joseph, the Diocese of Springfield – Cape Girardeau and the Diocese of Jefferson City dating back to 1945. This included more than 2,000 priests, 300 deacons, seminarians and religious women.
According to the Mo. AG’s Office, the investigation uncovered 163 priests or clergy members accused of sexual abuse or misconduct against minors.
Schmitt said 12 of these cases will be referred to local prosecutors for further investigation and possible prosecution.
The following is a breakdown of where the other cases investigated reportedly stand:
- 83 of the accused are dead
- In 46 of the cases, the prosecution was barred due to Missouri’s statute of limitations
- One case is still under open investigation by the Church
- 16 have been previously referred for local prosecution
- Five have been or are currently being investigated by prosecutors
The AG’s Office said the clergy abuse hotline will remain open, and the Attorney General’s Office welcomes anyone to continue to call to share their account of abuse.
“In cases in which local prosecutors should seek our assistance, we stand ready and willing to help," said Schmitt. "Additionally, we’ve provided concrete recommendations to the Catholic Church moving forward. I also want to thank the brave victims who have come forward to share their stories. To the victims: you didn’t deserve any of this. None of what happened to you was your fault. This report, our referrals for criminal prosecution, our aggressive and substantive suggestions for reform, will not change what happened in the past. But, they can change the trajectory of the future and ensure that this never happens again.”
In his announcement, Schmitt also laid out the following recommendations to the Church:
- The Church should assume greater responsibility and oversight over all religious order priests and priests visiting or relating from other dioceses to subject them to the same procedures and oversight with regard to youth protection and clergy abuse as if they were diocesan priests.
- Dioceses should ensure that the Independent Review Board is composed entirely of lay people and its determinations of credibility and sanctions will be given authoritative weight with respect to the ability of an offending priest to minister in its diocese.
- The diocese should not wait for victims who made the effort before 2002 to present reports of abuse. They should review all past claims and subject them to the heightened 2002 Charter standards, inviting the assistance of victims.
- In cases of offending priests who have had reports of abuse credited by the Independent Review Board, the decision of the IRB and the decision of the diocese to seek laicization of the offending priest should be publicly disclosed without delay.
- A robust program on notification and supervision of priests removed from public ministry or from the clerical state should be undertaken.
The full report by the Missouri Attorney General’s Office can be found here.