An organization that provides support for victims of clergy abuse called on Missouri’s governor on Wednesday to order Attorney General Josh Hawley, R, to use subpoenas during his clergy sex abuse investigation. The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, which is known as SNAP, held a Wednesday news conference outside the Statehouse in Jefferson City. St. Louis volunteer SNAP director David Clohessy says Governor Mike Parson understands the difference between a real investigation and an inadequate investigation.
“And we’re asking him to essentially order the attorney general to do this probe of Catholic dioceses in Missouri on child sex crimes and cover-up and to do it right,” Clohessy said.
SNAP wants Hawley to question Missouri Catholic church officials under oath.
Governor Parson’s spokeswoman, Kelli Jones, issued a statement to Missourinet, after the press conference.
“The Governor fully supports the Attorney General’s independent review on this extremely important matter. To date, our office has no knowledge of a request from a local prosecutor seeking assistance from the Attorney General. Until then, our office lacks the Constitutional and statutory authority to compel any further actions,” Jones said.
Clohessy told Capitol reporters that Hawley is currently relying on the voluntary production of church records, for his clergy sex abuse investigation.
“Without issuing subpoenas, Hawley has no idea whether he will see 10% or 90% of church abuse records,” said Clohessy. “There’s simply no way for him to know.”
Hawley’s spokeswoman, Mary Compton, also issued a statement in response to the SNAP press conference.
“The Attorney General’s Office has met with current and former SNAP leadership regarding the investigation. We invite constructive input from all members of the community and all interested persons,” Compton said.
She also told Missourinet all four Missouri dioceses have agreed to independent reviews conducted by the attorney general’s office. They are the Archdiocese of St. Louis, the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, the Diocese of Jefferson City and the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau.
Diocoese of Jefferson City Bishop Shawn McKnight held a news conference on August 24, where he discussed the Pennsylvania grand jury report. McKnight was critical of previous Roman Catholic church leaders, during that news conference.
“Their active cover-up or passive silence when clergy abusers were continued in the ministry or promoted in office gravely compromised the credibility of the hierarchy, and by extension, the whole Church,” McKnight said that day.
Bishop McKnight described sexual abuse of children as “a crime and a sin,” adding that the Diocese of Jefferson City has no tolerance for those who intentionally harm children.
Meantime, SNAP says there are at least 113 publicly-accused Catholic priests in Missouri. Clohessy told the Capitol Press Corps he believes the number is higher.
“It doesn’t count, for example, the literally hundreds of priests from all over the country who’ve been sent for decades quietly into church-run facilities in the St. Louis area that house and treat sexually-troubled priests,” Clohessy said.
SNAP wants Hawley to team up with a local prosecutor, so sworn testimony from church officials can be secured.
Clohessy was joined at the press conference by a victim and two other men, including a former priest. The group delivered their petition to Governor Parson’s Capitol office on Wednesday.
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