Washington, D.C., Attorney General Karl Racine is investigating whether the Archdiocese of Washington broke D.C. law in its handling of church sex abuse cases.
The Office of the Attorney General launched a civil investigation into whether the archdiocese — a nonprofit organization — violated D.C. law on nonprofits by allegedly covering up reports of the sexual abuse of juveniles, Racine announced Tuesday.
"According to the law, nonprofits are required to work for a public purpose; if they are in fact covering up child sex abuse, that is clearly not in the public interest," Racine said at an event with D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and the D.C. Council.
In a statement, archdiocese officials said they briefed Racine last month on their efforts to prevent sexual abuse of minors and respond to allegations.
"We explained that the problem of sexual abuse of minors in the archdiocese was an historical one — that to our knowledge there had not been an incident of abuse of a minor by an archdiocesan clergy member for almost 20 years," archdiocese general counsel Kim Viti Fiorentino said in a statement.
"The Archdiocese of Washington remains committed to a collaborative and transparent review process because there is not now, and has not been for decades, any problem of abuse of minors by clergy of the Archdiocese of Washington. Zero tolerance has been mandated in this archdiocese and zero abuse is the result," Fiorentino continued.
Survivors of child sexual abuse by clergy in D.C. who want to share their experiences with law enforcement can now file a report through a new phone hotline and email address.
Announced Monday, the Clergy Abuse Reporting Line is the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia's newest effort to pursue potential criminal investigations and prosecution of clergy members who may have abused victims in a house of worship, school or other location in the District.
Reports filed through this system will be reviewed by a team of criminal investigators and prosecutors from the Superior Court Division of the U.S. Attorney's Office and victim advocates from the Superior Court's Victim Witness Assistance Unit. The investigators will determine if any criminal charges can be brought or if some information can be referred to the Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia.
Victim advocates are available to provide support and guidance to survivors who want to report.
The hotline announcement comes after the D.C. archdiocese released names of priests "credibly accused" of child sex abuse, and Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington, resigned.