Los Angeles, Calif., May 3, 2019 / 03:45 pm (CNA).- The California Attorney’s General’s Office this week wrote a letter to the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, announcing that it will be conducting an investigation of its handling of sexual abuse allegations involving minors, starting with accusations made as early as 1996.
The letter was dated Thursday, and addressed by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to Archbishop Jose Gomez. It was obtained and reviewed by the Los Angeles Times.
In the Angelus News, the diocesan paper for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, archdiocesan spokesperson Carolina Guevara said that “the Archdiocese has not officially received the letter from the Attorney General, however, we will be responding cooperatively as we have with the past three Grand Jury investigations of the Archdiocese.”
The investigation comes shortly after the archdiocese paid its largest abuse settlement to an individual to date – $8 million to a female teenager, who was sexually abused and abducted by a teacher at her Catholic high school in 2016.
Becerra’s investigation will include accusations made against clergy as well as those made against members of religious orders and against employees and volunteers for the archdiocese, the letter indicated. It will be a “review of your archdiocese’s handling of sexual misconduct allegations involving children, including whether your archdiocese has adequately reported allegations of sexual misconduct, as required under California’s Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act,” the letter to Gomez stated, according to the L.A. Times.
The review will look at past actions that the archdiocese took against those accused of abuse, including cases properly reported to authorities, as well as actions taken against those who failed to properly report abuse. The letter asked the archdiocese to preserve for review all documents relating to allegations of sexual abuse against clergy or employees, including any secret archives, legal documents, personnel files and internal review board files.
The investigation is similar to those being conducted in other states, including Illinois, Michigan, Nebraska, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. The L.A. Times noted that it is unclear if Becerra’s investigation will include any other Catholic dioceses in the state.
The investigation is the latest of several moves on the part of the state and the archdiocese to improve transparency and reporting on cases of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church.
In November 2018, Becerra announced the creation of an online reporting form for easier reporting of accusations of abuse against California clergy.
“To date, the Office of the Attorney General has not informed the Archdiocese of any reports made to their online reporting form concerning the Archdiocese of Los Angeles,” Guevara told Angelus News.
In December 2018, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles updated its list of priests credibly accused of abuse of minors, which had last been updated in 2008. That same month, former Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop Alexander Salazar resigned after a previous accusation of sexual abuse was found to be credible.
The archdiocese emphasized its willingness to cooperate with the Attorney General’s investigation in their latest statement.
In a statement published by Angelus News, it said, “The Archdiocese of Los Angeles is committed to transparency and has established reporting and prevention policies and programs to protect minors and support victim-survivors in our parishes, schools and ministries.”
“The Archdiocese has also already cooperated with two state and one federal investigation and continues to fully cooperate with all civil authorities. Allegations of abuse involving minors whether by a member of the clergy or a layperson are reported to law enforcement, public announcements are made at the places where the person has served, and if found credible the person is permanently removed from any capacity according to the Archdiocese’s Zero Tolerance policy,” it stated.
“The Archdiocese does not tolerate anyone who does harm to a child or vulnerable person and remains committed and vigilant in ensuring that parishes, schools and ministries are safe places for everyone in our community,” it added.