Editorial: Missouri's stilted probe of clergy abuse must not be the last word on the issue

With the Catholic Church’s sordid history of enabling and covering up the sexual abuse of children by priests, and the long failure of government to confront those crimes, it’s tempting to cheer any progress toward justice. That’s why, at first blush, last week’s news might have appeared promising: Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt forwarded the names of 12 former priests to local authorities for possible prosecution after an investigation that dredged up scores of previously unreported allegations against clergy in the state.

But a closer look suggests this progress toward justice is at best minimal.

A dozen possible prosecutions looks like a token next to the 74 criminal investigations underway in Kansas, which has less than half Missouri’s population. Could it be because the Missouri investigation left out the Jesuits and other orders that are home to a significant portion of Catholic clergy? Or that investigators contacted few if any of the Missouri activists and attorneys who have focused for years on clergy abuse and could have offered deep and relevant expertise?

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