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Feds Order All Catholic Dioceses to Preserve Records

National Basilica of the Immaculate Conception (Library of Congress)

In an unprecedented moment in the history of the abuse crisis in the Catholic Church, the U.S. Department of Justice has asked the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) to preserve all electronic and paper documents in the event that federal prosecutors may need to look into sexual assault claims against current and former church leaders.

The Washington Examiner is reporting on the request which was made by the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and asks for all documents belonging to affiliate archdioceses, dioceses, archeparchies, eparchies, and personal ordinariates, as well as confirmation from the USCCB that it will cooperate.

This comes after Attorney General Jeff Sessions' Justice Department began an investigation into child sexual abuse at a Roman Catholic Church in Pennsylvania earlier this month. The investigation relates to a grand jury report released earlier this year which claims that senior Church officials had protected over 300 “predator priests” who were involved in the molestation of over 1,000 people over seven decades.

In addition to these new investigations, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington DC has launched a telephone and email hotline for those people who want to report sexual abuse by church leaders.

“All submissions will be looked over by criminal investigators, prosecutors, and victim advocates from those two offices,” the Examiner reports. “From there, eligible cases will be referred to law enforcement for prosecution.”

This news comes on the heels of the sudden removed of Bishop Martin Holley from the Diocese of Memphis which is said to have come about due to problems with his management of the diocese. Specifically, he came under criticism for transferring two-thirds of the 60 active priests in the diocese and for appointing a Canadian priest to serve as vicar general, moderator of the curia, and chancellor of the Diocese of Memphis.

Vatican spokesman Greg Burke told reporters that the decision to remove was “not abuse-related.”

However, in an interview with CNA, Holley claimed that the real reason he was ousted is because Cardinal Donald Wuerl was bearing a grudge against him for expressing concern about his fitness to serve as Vatican Secretary of State when he was under consideration for the position in 2012. At the time, Holley was serving as an auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Washington.

Cardinal Donald Wuerl has since resigned over allegations that he mishandled priests involved in credible sexual abuse claims while he was serving as bishop of Pittsburgh.

The Clergy Abuse Reporting Line is (202) 252-7008 and the email address is USADC.ReportClergyAbuse@usdoj.gov.

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