California to review sex-abuse responses of all 12 dioceses

Bay Area

The California attorney general’s office will review how all 12 Roman Catholic dioceses in the state handled allegations of child sexual abuse that have resulted in payouts of hundreds of millions of dollars to victims.

Attorney General Xavier Becerra sent out letters to the dioceses on Thursday, requesting that officials preserve documents relating to abuse allegations involving clergy, staffers and volunteers that were received from 1996 to the present.

The attorney general’s office will look into whether the archdiocese properly reported the allegations under California law.

The request could be the first step toward a full investigation of California dioceses, which serve an estimated 10 million worshippers.

Melanie Sakoda with Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) says she along with other advocates, feel the Catholic church isn’t transparent enough to do an investigation. 

“In general they have underreported. I think they have minimized,” she said. “Until you get all of that information out there, you don’t have a good idea of what happened and you don’t know who knew what, who knew when, and what did they do about it. I think that’s what the attorney general is focusing on.”

Half of the state’s diocese, including San Francisco and San Jose, were asked to voluntarily submit their documents in the next 30 days. 

The Archdiocese of San Francisco said it is reviewing the letter from the attorney general and will comment further next week.  

The Diocese of San Jose released the following statement: 

On May 2, the Diocese of San Jose was one of 12 Catholic dioceses who received a letter from the California Attorney General’s Office asking the Diocese to preserve files and documents that concern its compliance as mandatory reporters of child abuse to local law enforcement and is one of six dioceses asked to voluntarily present those documents. 

 The Diocese of San Jose regularly ensures that our clergy and all mandated reporters in its parishes and schools have completed the required training through Santa Clara County’s Department for Family & Children’s Services and reminds them about their obligations to report to law enforcement.  Even those who are not mandated reporters are reminded of the moral obligation to be aware of the signs of child abuse and to report it when there is a suspicion an abuse as occurred. 

In the spirit of transparency, the Diocese of San Jose is carefully reviewing the request and intends to cooperate with the Attorney General’s Office.

The Diocese of Oakland issued a statement Sunday: 

The California Attorney General’s Office has asked all 12 Catholic dioceses around the state to preserve files and documents that concern their compliance as mandatory reporters of child abuse to local law enforcement.  Oakland is one of those dioceses. We are not one of the dioceses being asked to voluntarily provide that documentation to the AG.

Our mandated training of all who work or volunteer for the diocese includes an explanation of everyone’s obligation to report to law enforcement. Beyond that, we also train all individuals on how to recognize predatory grooming behavior or child abuse; how to report their concerns of unsafe environments for our children, young people and vulnerable adults; and how to implement best practices in our parishes and schools for safe environments. We have more than 33,000 individuals currently in compliance with our training requirements.

As always, we intend to cooperate with the Attorney General’s request and will work out the details with them directly.

Last November, Becerra asked victims of clerical sex abuse to submit complaints to his office.

Many dioceses around the country have been hit with lawsuits and accusations that sex abuse by clergy and others was ignored or swept under the rug.

Last year, a grand jury report in Pennsylvania detailed decades of abuse and cover-up in six dioceses, alleging more than 1,000 children had been abused over the years by about 300 priests. Since then, federal prosecutors and attorneys general in several other states have launched investigations.

To report abuse by members of the clergy or religious organizations within California, please click here

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