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Missouri Examines How Clergy Sex Abuse Allegations Were Handled

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

We're going to turn to another story now from Missouri. The attorney general in that state is launching a review of how the Archdiocese of St. Louis handled allegations of clergy sex abuse. Just last week, of course, a Pennsylvania grand jury report detailed shocking misconduct within that state's diocese. But as St. Louis Public Radio's Jason Rosenbaum reports, some are skeptical about whether the Missouri inquiry is going to be effective.

JASON ROSENBAUM, BYLINE: St. Louis Archbishop Robert Carlson invited Missouri's attorney general to review the church's files of clergy accused of sexual abuse. It comes on the heels of a report from a Pennsylvania grand jury detailing 70 years of sexual misconduct and how top officials covered up those allegations. Carlson says he's giving the attorney general's office unfettered access to documents because the diocese has nothing to hide.

ROBERT CARLSON: We did this for the credibility of the archdiocese and the fact that several people wrote to me, asked us to do it. And I thought that was a fair request.

JOSH HAWLEY: Facts are powerful things.

ROSENBAUM: Josh Hawley is Missouri's attorney general. His office will examine the Archdiocese of St. Louis' files and issue a public report.

HAWLEY: And what the public, I think, wants above all is they want an accounting. They want to know what has happened and what's going on and what's being done to address it. And that's what this report aims to get at.

ROSENBAUM: If Attorney General Hawley's office finds any credible allegation of criminal abuse, he says he'll send that information to local prosecutors who can bring charges. Because of state law, the attorney general himself cannot bring charges. Still, some survivors are not optimistic about where the investigation might lead. David Clohessy is the former executive director of Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests. He says that the attorney general's review doesn't include subpoena power, which means the office can't compel the archdiocese to turn over anything it doesn't want to.

DAVID CLOHESSY: I think, in the end, it will be, you know, a public relations coup for Hawley and for the church. And it's tragic. That outcome will breed complacency. And complacency is precisely what we don't need. Complacency endangers kids, doesn't protect them.

ROSENBAUM: In the meantime, the attorney general says he wants other dioceses throughout Missouri to let his office review their records, as well. So far, the diocese in Kansas City also agreed to open their records to the attorney general's office. For NPR News, I'm Jason Rosenbaum in St. Louis. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Since entering the world of professional journalism in 2006, Jason Rosenbaum dove head first into the world of politics, policy and even rock and roll music. A graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, Rosenbaum spent more than four years in the Missouri State Capitol writing for the Columbia Daily Tribune, Missouri Lawyers Media and the St. Louis Beacon. Since moving to St. Louis in 2010, Rosenbaum's work appeared in Missouri Lawyers Media, the St. Louis Business Journal and the Riverfront Times' music section. He also served on staff at the St. Louis Beacon as a politics reporter. Rosenbaum lives in Richmond Heights with with his wife Lauren and their two sons.