12 California Dioceses Subpoenaed by Attorney General, SNAP Reacts

The attorney general investigation into cases of clergy abuse in California has ratcheted up today as California’s top law enforcement official served the state’s 12 Catholic dioceses with subpoenas. We applaud this move and hope that other attorneys general around the country will look to do the same in their own states.

In subpoenaing all of the dioceses, A.G. Xavier Becerra is using the full power of his office in pursuit of the truth as it relates to the scope of clergy sexual abuse in Catholic California. This is a great step forward that will certainly lead to more transparency, and will also hopefully lead to more protections for children and more justice for survivors.

Data shows that when law enforcement tools are used, the resulting information that is gathered about abuse is more detailed, accurate and trusted. 

The leading light in in this country in that regard is the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report published last year. This report uncovered hundreds of abusers and brought forth thousands of victims. A proportionate result in California will name thousands of abusers and will bring forth tens of thousands of victims.

An additional hope is that the next action in the A.G.'s probe will be the formation of a grand jury. Grand juries in other places around the country, such as Pennsylvania and New York, have been critical in uncovering not only hidden cases of abuse, but also information related to the cover-up of those crimes. These details are critical in understanding who knew what, when they knew it, and what they did in response to allegations of abuse. Once we have that understanding, we will be better able to prevent protect children in the future.

We know that secular involvement leads to change. Since A.G. Becerra opened his confidential reporting system last year, we have seen multiple priests – both Anglican and Catholic –arrested thanks to tips that came via confidential reports. This pressure has caused church officials in California – save those from San Francisco and Fresno – to publish lists of those accused of abuse.

Yet of the ten dioceses that published lists, SNAP's internal reviews show all of them to be deficient. Of note, Oakland diocese admits to 65 abusers, while SNAP has documented over 150 with ties to the diocese who abused.  San Jose's list started at only 15, and was increased to 90 after SNAP published its contradictory list. We are confident that this move by A.G. Becerra will lead to more transparency from these dioceses and more names being added to these lists.

Now that California has opened a “window to justice” that allows survivors of child sexual abuse to sue their perpetrators and the institutions that enabled them, this news will hopefully encourage even more victims to come forward and help hold institutions accountable and prevent future cases of abuse. We encourage any survivors who are still suffering silently to come forward and make a report to A.G. Becerra’s confidential reporting system and to their local police department.

CONTACT: Dan McNevin, SNAP Board Member ([email protected], 415-341-6417), Joey Piscitelli, SNAP California ([email protected], 925-262-3699) Melanie Sakoda, SNAP Survivor Support Coordinator, ([email protected], 925-708-6175), Esther Hatfield Miller, SNAP Los Angeles (562-673-9442, [email protected]), Zach Hiner, SNAP Executive Director ([email protected], 517-974-9009) 

 (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)

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