Georgia AG Opens Clerical Abuse Investigation

News: US News
by David Nussman  •  •  May 2, 2019   

State attorney general begins probe into two dioceses

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ATLANTA ( - Georgia's attorney general has announced an investigation into clerical sex abuse.

On Tuesday, Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr announced the opening of a statewide investigation into priestly sex abuse allegations. Carr and other law enforcement officials have been laying the groundwork for the investigation for months.

Carr, who is Catholic, told local news in an interview:

I heard from those that I go to church with every Sunday, and I saw the level of anger and frustration and distrust. Both on a personal and professional level, this was important to me. I think it's important that we hold accountable those that have done wrong but also lift the cloud of suspicion from those that may not have.

The state of Georgia is home to two Catholic dioceses: the archdiocese of Atlanta and the diocese of Savannah. Law enforcement was in discussion with officials from the two dioceses while putting together the plans for the probe.

The current archbishop of Atlanta, Abp. Wilton Gregory, was appointed to replace Cdl. Donald Wuerl in the archdiocese of Washington, D.C. He will be installed as archbishop of the nation's capital on May 21.

Archbishop Gregory issued an email statement expressing support for the statewide probe.

He stated, "In the spirit of continued transparency and concern over the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church in the United States, Bishop Gregory Hartmayer of the Diocese of Savannah and I offered our full support and cooperation to Attorney General Chris Carr for a third-party file review of both Georgia dioceses."

Gregory has been accused of aiding pro-gay messaging and theological dissent.

In 2017, he gave a keynote address to the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests, a dissident group that promotes married priests and artificial contraception, among other things.

In 2015, Abp. Gregory hosted a retreat for pro-gay group Fortunate Families. In September 2018, he invited pro-gay Jesuit celebrity priest Fr. James Martin to two speaking gigs in the archdiocese.

I think it's important that we hold accountable those that have done wrong but also lift the cloud of suspicion from those that may not have.

One of the parishes that Fr. Martin spoke at is the notoriously pro-LGBT Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. A group from the Shrine marches in the Atlanta gay pride parade every year. The pastor of the parish, Msgr. Henry Gracz, has been outed for attending a drag show at a gay bar. In August 2018, Abp. Gregory appointed Msgr. Gracz to a role of spiritual direction for sex abuse victims.

Archbishop Gregory was president of the U.S. bishops' conference in the early 2000s. He oversaw the Dallas Charter, a document for guidelines on handling clerical sex abuse allegation. The Dallas Charter has often been faulted for failing to provide procedures for handling allegations against bishops and cardinals.

At the conclusion of the statewide investigation into clerical sex abuse, Georgia law enforcement officials will publish a report similar to the 2018 Pennsylvania grand jury report.

In November, the Atlanta archdiocese released a list of 15 priests, seminarians and deacons who were credibly accused of sexual abuse. Every person on that list was either dead, convicted in a court of law or removed from active ministry.

In the wake of the bombshell report in Pennsylvania, numerous state attorneys general from around the country have worked toward launching similar probes into Catholic clerical sex abuse allegations and cover-ups by Church leaders. This includes states such as Nebraska, Maryland, Vermont and Michigan.

Gregory is stepping into Wuerl's post in Washington after widespread pushback due to cover-up allegations against Cdl. Wuerl outlined in the Pennsylvania grand jury report.

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