Archbishop Robert J. Carlson has invited the Missouri attorney general’s office to conduct an inspection of its files related to allegations of sexual abuse and to produce an independent report.
In an Aug. 23 letter to Missouri Attorney General Joshua D. Hawley, Carlson said that he was aware of requests from members of the public for an investigation into the Catholic Church in the state.
“We have always cooperated with law enforcement in any investigation into these matters and will continue to do so,” Carlson said.
In Missouri, the state attorney general does not have the power to convene a grand jury such as the one which published an Aug. 14 report into the handling of sexual abuse allegation in six dioceses in Pennsylvania. That report identified allegations of sexual abuse involving 300 priests and more than 1,000 potential victims over 70 years.
Hawley, in a conference call with journalists, said that he was “heartened” by the offer of full cooperation from the archdiocese. He thanked the archbishop for the invitation in a letter issued today.
“We appreciate your leadership and your commitment to public transparency and accountability,” Hawley wrote.
The attorney general confirmed that he would assemble a team of experienced attorneys and prosecutors to conduct a “vigorous, searching, and comprehensive inquiry” which would review documents and interview potential victims and witnesses to alleged abuse.
Archbishop Carlson’s letter noted that steps had already been taken to ensure that its processes for handling complaints were sufficient.
“Last year, I instructed that a review of our safe environment protocols to protect children and vulnerable individuals be undertaken by a former member of the FBI with experience in this area. She found our protocols to be appropriate and robust.”
In a statement released before the letter, Carlson said that he found the Pennsylvania grand jury report deeply disturbing.
“Priests are called to be spiritual fathers to their people, and bishops are called to be shepherds of their flock, to protect the people in their care. We know that in many cases that has not happened. The trust of the faithful has been violated.”
Archbishop Carlson has led the Archdiocese of St. Louis since 2009, when he replaced Cardinal Raymond Burke. Burke served as archbishop in St. Louis from 2004-2008, when he was appointed the Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura - the Vatican’s highest court. The archdiocese had previously was led by Cardinal Justin Francis Rigali from 1994-2003.
In his call with reporters, Attorney General Hawley said that the investigation would be “probing and comprehensive” and begin as soon as possible, with the resulting report and any recommendations it may include being presented to local prosecutors.
Archbishop Carlson said in his statement that “we must act on behalf of the victims of this abuse in order to bring to them the love, healing, and light of Christ.”