Prompted by the grand jury investigation in Pennsylvania which alleged a many-decades-long pattern of sexual abuse and cover-ups in the Catholic Church harming more than a thousand children, thirteen other states are now carrying out their own inquiries. On Wednesday, Mark Herring, Attorney General of Virginia, announced he was opening up an “on going investigation” to determine whether a similar pattern occurred in his state. To that end, he’s established a hotline number for victims of clerical abuse.
Virginia joins the twelve other states plus Washington, D.C. (which announced a similar probe yesterday). According to The Washington Post, Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington “described the attention on the church as generally unfair and biased, and they emphasize that most abuse reports were decades ago.” Cardinal Wuerl himself has been criticized for his handling of abuse cases. He’s stated his intent to resign his post, which he still holds pending Pope Francis naming a replacement.
Herring denies any anti-religious bias, saying he was the church-going grandson of a Presbyterian minister. “Few people in our lives are more trusted and, therefore, more powerful than our faith leaders, especially as we’re growing up,” Herring said. “We look to them for strength in difficult times, spiritual growth and maturity, understanding. I know this is true in my own life. Sadly we have learned that trust and power can be abused and exploited, even in communities of faith, even against children.”
Aside from Virginia, there are investigations in New York, New Jersey, Missouri, and Kentucky, among other states.