Six California dioceses subpoenaed in sex abuse investigation

Six California dioceses subpoenaed in sex abuse investigation

Christ Cathedral in Garden Grove, California. Credit: Kate Veik/CNA.
Christ Cathedral in Garden Grove, California. Credit: Kate Veik/CNA.

.- The office of California's attorney general has informed six dioceses in the state that they will be issued subpoenas as part of a review of child protection policies and procedures.

“To verify that safeguards are effectively in place and are being appropriately implemented to ensure the safety of our children and young people is crucially important and a shared interest,” the Diocese of Fresno, one of those being subpoenaed, said Dec. 10.

Subpoenas are being issued as well to the local Churches of Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento, San Jose, and Orange. The Los Angeles Times reported Dec. 10 that both the Orange and San José dioceses have already received the subpoena orders.

The state's 12 Latin rite dioceses were told in May that attorney general Xavier Becerra would be investigating their handling of sexual abuse allegations involving minors, and they were asked to retain documents related to such allegations.

The six dioceses that will be subpoenaed were also asked to produce documents on the allegations.

The Fresno diocese said it and the other five dioceses have voluntarily cooperated since May with Becerra's office.

“We have worked to accommodate the Attorney General's requests while also following the laws governing the privacy rights of employees, abuse victims and mandated reporters,” it stated. “An abundance of time and resources has already been dedicated to this high-priority undertaking and we will continue to do so until the process can come to completion and accomplishes its goal.”

Bishop Joseph Brennan of Fresno said, “I am committed to fully cooperating with the Attorney General's examination to the best of our ability in accordance with the law.”

“To now undergo a review by the Attorney General's Office is a welcomed process that will help us to advance efforts towards greater transparency; to further learn from our past, scrutinize our current performance in implementing mandated reporting procedures; and, to continue to tirelessly puruse and develop all reasonable measures to protect the vulnerable in our midst,” Bishop Brennan added.

Similarly, Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento had said Dec. 6 that the six dioceses have, since May, “been involved in a voluntary effort with the California Attorney General’s office to provide documents related to mandated reporting of child sexual abuse.”

“We share the Attorney General’s desire to conduct a thorough examination of the practices and procedures that seek to protect the children entrusted to our schools, churches and programs. Throughout this process, we have worked to accommodate the Attorney General’s requests while also following the laws governing the privacy rights of employees, abuse victims and mandated reporters,” he added.

Bishop Soto said the subpoenas “will move us toward our shared goal of ensuring that the safeguards in place for our children are working as they should. We remain committed to cooperating with the Attorney General’s inquiry to the best of our ability and as fully as the law permits.”

California adopted a law in October extending the statute of limitations for childhood sex abuse victims.

The law allows civil claims of childhood sexual abuse to be filed by victims until age 40, or five years after discovering the damages from the abuse. Previously, claims had to be filed by age 26, or within three years of discovering damages from the abuse.

The new law also opens up a three-year window to revive past claims that would have expired under the previous statute of limitations. That window begins Jan. 1, 2020.

Tags: Archdiocese of Los Angeles, Diocese of Orange, Diocese of Fresno, Diocese of Sacramento

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