DC Attorney General Opens Investigation Into Whether Archdiocese of Washington Covered Up Child Sex Abuse

District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine at a news conference on June 12, 2017, in Washington.
(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/Getty Images, FILE)

The District of Columbia’s attorney general announced on Tuesday that his office was investigating whether the Archdiocese of Washington covered up the alleged sexual abuse of minors by priests and others.

The District of Columbia joins 13 other states and the Department of Justice in an investigation into the Catholic Church, and the announcement comes just days after Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Washington’s Cardinal Donald Weurl in the wake of the scandal both in Washington and when Weurl was Archbishop of Pittsburgh.

The case would be a civil investigation, not a criminal probe, which would be handled by the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia.

“While we generally don’t talk publicly about our confidential enforcement activity, I can report that our office has launched a civil investigation into whether the Archdiocese – which is a nonprofit institution – violated the District’s Nonprofit Act by potentially covering up allegations of sexual abuse of minors,” Karl Racine, the D.C. Attorney General, said in remarks at the Washington, D.C., Mayor-Council Breakfast.

“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. Our investigation brings the count of states with open investigations to 14,” Racine said.

In August, a grand jury report in Pennsylvania found that 301 Catholic priests were identified as predator priests and detailed accounts of 1,000 children it said were abused. Weurl was named repeatedly in the grand jury report, which questioned his handling of accused priests. Pennsylvania’s attorney general accused Weurl, as then-Archbishop of Pittsburgh, of participating in a cover-up. Weurl has denied wrongdoing.

The D.C. attorney general’s office has set up a website to report any wrongdoing.

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SOURCE: ABC News, Luke Barr