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Hawley defends investigation of alleged clergy abuse

Hawley defends investigation of alleged clergy abuse

November 28th, 2018 by Joe Gamm in News

Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley speaks during a news conference March 23, 2018.

Photo by Julie Smith /News Tribune.

Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley took to a social media platform Tuesday to defend his investigation of potential clergy abuse in the Catholic Church.

Hawley went on Twitter to refute a column that ran in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, in which Rebecca Randles, a Kansas City attorney, and David Clohessy, the former director of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, criticized the investigation for a lack of thoroughness.

Within the column, the authors said despite both of them having extensively worked with actual victims of sexual abuse, neither has been contacted by the investigation.

The column states even some Republicans have accused Hawley, who on Nov. 6 defeated U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill in her re-election campaign, of ladder-climbing.

"This is false," Hawley tweeted. "We have spoken with the current president and executive director of SNAP multiple times, as well as former leadership of SNAP."

He added his office had spoken with "dozens and dozens of victims and witnesses."

"I'm glad to hear it," Clohessy said when told about the tweet. "I hope more will come forward. But, I understand and share the skepticism of many. And hope that in addition to contacting Hawley, victims also call local law enforcement."

The Diocese of Jefferson City is among those dioceses under investigation.

This summer's revelations about Cardinal Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington, D.C., who was suspended in July over allegations he sexually abused seminary students and later retired, demonstrated an egregious abuse of power, said the Most Rev. W. Shawn McKnight, bishop of the Diocese of Jefferson City.

Less than a month later, in August, a Pennsylvania grand jury released a report on clergy abuse.

Shortly thereafter, while following the lead of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, McKnight added the Diocese of Jefferson City to the independent investigation into potential sexual abuse that Hawley's office is conducting.

In a morning tweet, Hawley said Tuesday his office is "seeking court orders to acquire information needed from the dioceses to ensure a full, thorough and independent investigation."

Mary Compton, the communications director for the office, said it is looking for all relevant materials in the investigation.

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"The Attorney General's Office has sought personnel records, records relating to allegations of abuse and other potentially relevant materials from Catholic organizations across the state," Compton said. "We are seeking court orders regarding the production of those materials in order to ensure full compliance with all applicable privacy laws."

She said the office will take all necessary measures to ensure a thorough and independent investigation.

"The one thing we know for certain is that when victims stay silent, kids are at risk and predators remain hidden," Clohessy said. "We can debate the proper time and way and place for victims to speak up. But, without a doubt, victims do have to take the first step if these horrible crimes are going to be prevented. No one in law enforcement can fully do their jobs unless victims summon the courage to pick up the phone."