May 3 (UPI) -- California will investigate how the Los Angeles Archdiocese of the Roman Catholic Church handled sexual abuse allegations, state Attorney General Xavier Bacerra said.
A letter on Thursday from Bacerra's office to that of Archbishop Jose Gomez advised that "the California Department of Justice is conducting 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."
Leaders of the L.A. archdiocese, the largest in the United States, have been accused for two decades of mishandling clergy abuse cases, sometimes simply moving accused priests to other parishes instead of informing law enforcement. The archdiocese has paid $740 million in settlements and pledged to better protect members of the church. Last month, it reached an $8 million settlement in a lawsuit in which a coach at an all-girls Catholic school was convicted of molesting a 15-year-old student and then taking her to Nevada.
Becerra's letter asks for information about cases involving non-clergy church and school staffers; a list of all allegations the archdiocese received since 1996; any action by the archdiocese against those accused of sexual misconduct against minors or those who failed to report the accusations to law enforcement; a list of those suspected of sexual misconduct who remain active in the archdiocese; all files about suspects in "secret files," personnel files and review board files; and all documents regarding compliance with the law by the archdiocese.
The requests are more comprehensive than investigations launched in other states. A Pennsylvania attorney general's report revealed that over 1,000 children and hundreds of clergy members were involved in a decades-long cover-up of child sex abuse. An Illinois attorney general's report released in December found that 690 clergy members were accused of sex abuse crimes, although church officials had publicly identified only 185 with credible allegations against them. In February, Catholic dioceses in Virginia and New Jersey released lists naming more than 200 clergy "credibly accused" of sexually abusing children
In November, Becerra called for all who believed they were sexually abused by clergy members to come forward. A month later, the Los Angeles archdiocese updated and increased its list of clergy accused of molesting children to 54, noting that 27 of those on the list were dead.
A 2009 federal grand jury investigation of the diocese ended without the filing of criminal charges.