The US Justice Department has opened an investigation of child sexual abuse inside the Roman Catholic Church in Pennsylvania, using subpoenas to demand confidential files and testimony from church leaders, according to two people familiar with the probe. The subpoenas, served last week, follow a scathing state grand jury report over the summer that found that 301 "predator priests" in Pennsylvania had molested more than 1,000 children over seven decades and that church leaders had covered up for the offenders. Now federal prosecutors are bringing the Justice Department's considerable resources to bear, according to two people who were not authorized to discuss the investigation publicly and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity. One advocate calls the move potentially "groundbreaking," noting, "The federal government has so far been utterly silent on the Catholic cases."
At least seven of the state's eight Roman Catholic dioceses—Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Scranton, Erie, Greensburg, Allentown, and Harrisburg—acknowledged receiving subpoenas and said they would cooperate or were working with Justice Department officials; sources tell the Philadelphia Inquirer all eight dioceses were subpoenaed. US Attorney William McSwain of Philadelphia, who issued the subpoenas, wants to know if priests, bishops, seminarians, or others committed any federal crimes; he asked for certain church leaders to testify before a federal grand jury in Philadelphia, though it could be months before that happens because of the time it takes to review the requested documents. Click for much more, including how dioceses could potentially be charged under a law originally passed to bring down the Mafia. (Read more pedophilia scandal in Catholic church stories.)