By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published September 7, 2018
ATLANTA—Georgia’s top law enforcement officer urged the Archdiocese of Atlanta to “unwaveringly commit to a new day of transparency and openness” in response to Pennsylvania’s investigation into sexual abuse by clergy members.
On Friday, Aug. 31, Attorney General Chris Carr said his office does not have the authority in state law to prosecute crimes against children. However, Carr said his office is prepared to assist any abuse victims and is ready to commit resources in the Department of Law to “hold accountable those who have committed or concealed any crimes in the past.”
Prosecution of such crimes “primarily falls under the jurisdiction of local district attorneys,” he said.
Writing a personal note, Carr said he himself is a Catholic and is “concerned and angered” by continued reports of abuse by church leaders.
“Let me be clear: any sexual abuse—and specifically, abuse by an adult against a child— is wrong. It does not matter whether sexual abuse occurs in the context of human trafficking, by a friend or family member, a teacher or a coach, a public employee, or, as here, by a priest or church official. It must not and will not be tolerated,” he wrote in the statement.
Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory, in response, said, “I fully support and share the commitment of the attorney general to move forward deliberately and constructively.” He pledged his commitment “to take whatever next steps are necessary to ensure vigilance and accountability and to foster healing.”
The recent crisis in the church was sparked by a shocking grand jury report in Pennsylvania led by the state’s attorney general detailing sexual abuse. The report revealed more than 300 priests in that state had been credibly accused of sexually abusing more than 1,000 child victims during seven decades and a cover-up by bishops and church leaders.
And during the summer, Catholics learned retired Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick, of Washington, D.C., was accused of sexual abuse. He resigned as cardinal and was removed from public ministry. In August, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the Vatican’s former nuncio in the U.S., wrote an 11-page letter alleging that Pope Francis knew of the abuses and called for his resignation. The allegations in the letter have been called into question.
Carr urged church leaders to “bring to light” any suspected priests or others associated with the church and “to be an active participant to ensure justice is done.” If any leaders of the church have “participated in any way to conceal or shield” priests or others from punishment, he said those clergymen should be “removed from leadership and held accountable as well.”