U.S. Bishops Receive Notice from Department of Justice to Preserve Records
Every US bishop who heads a diocese should by now have received a copy of a letter from a U.S. District Attorney instructing them to “‘not destroy, discard, dispose of, delete, or alter’ a host of records pertaining to personnel in general, and abuse – and its related claims – in particular."
A week ago, news surfaced of the US Department of Justice's new investigation into Catholic clergy sex abuse and cover-up. Signed by William McSwain, the Trump-appointed US Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, the letter has supposed to be sent to all 198 diocesan chancery offices by the head of the USCCB. The letter dated October 9 was revealed by Philadelphia-based blogger and church observer Rocco Palmo, considered to be very authoritative and accurate by many journalists and Catholics.
We applaud this move by the Department of Justice and hope it prevents the destruction of incriminating records that could lead to the prosecution of clerics who commit or conceal horrific child sex crimes. We can’t help but feel that this letter may have been the impetus for the sudden willingness of bishops nationwide to begin releasing records voluntarily.
We also hope it will inspire victims, witnesses and whistleblowers to call police and prosecutors. Further, we hope it will prod potential whistleblowers into having the courage to speak up now. Disclosing known or suspected child sex crimes or cover ups is the morally right thing to do and the best way to protect kids and deter future wrongdoing. Perhaps those considering this move can draw inspiration from Siobhan O’Connor, the brave whistleblower from the Diocese of Buffalo.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)