MURRAY, Utah (ABC4 News) – At least 15 state attorneys general have publicized investigations into clergy sex abuse in the Catholic Church. Utah’s attorney general won’t comment on whether his office is or isn’t investigating clergy abuse, but the investigations chief Monday said stopping child abuse in Utah is a top priority for the office.
ABC4 News questioned Attorney General Sean Reyes’ Chief of Investigations Leo Lucey Monday about whether the office was pursuing active cases of Catholic priest abuse.
“I can’t talk about any open investigations,” said Lucey. “For us to open a case we have to have a complaint and somebody that allegedly committed a crime and a location and we would initiate our process from there.”
“In the interest of protecting the innocent and bringing criminals to justice, we do not discuss ongoing investigations,” according to the Attorney General’s Office website.
There have been complaints, including two active investigations by local law enforcement against priests in Utah. Lucey said when local jurisdictions are involved, they may ask the Attorney General’s Office for help – but not always.
Lucey also said the A.G.’s office would get involved if there were credible allegations of sexual misconduct and local law enforcement wasn’t investigating.
Still, should the Attorney General’s Office disclose whether or not it is actively pursuing these types of cases – not only in the Catholic Church but in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?
Survivors of abuse say yes, including Judy Larson, a volunteer for the board of the Utah Chapter of SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests). She said most of the abuse survivors she speaks to in Utah are or were Latter-day Saints.
“There’s a pattern of cover-up…of moving these predators around, of not believing the victims…of silencing the victims,” said Larson of the Catholic Church’s handling of abuse claims. Larson, who was raped by a priest when she was 10 years old in 1957, came forward to disclose it in 2016. She and others within SNAP have urged Utahns to write letters to Attorney General Sean Reyes’ Office to urge him to conduct an independent investigation of the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City.
The Attorney General’s Office reserves the right to keep mum all inquiries until arrests are made, Lucey said. He also said all abuse claims, including those dealing with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, are taken seriously.
“The religious affiliation would make no difference in the process we would use to initiate or look into an allegation that is brought to us,” said Lucey.
Last year, the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City voluntarily released the names of 19 priests or clergy members who had been accused or convicted of sexual misconduct, some with minors. Those who had been accused either left the ministry or were removed, the diocese claims. The disclosure came after a scathing grand jury report showed 301 priests in Pennsylvania had abused children, with some 1,000 victims. While there has been more transparency among Catholic Dioceses throughout the country in regards to whether abuse has happened, Pennsylvania’s attorney general over the weekend said the Catholic Church is “incapable of policing itself.”
Asked whether Utah’s attorney general had opened an investigation into the 19 local cases, spokesperson Jean Hill said the diocese was not aware of any inquiries by the Utah Attorney General’s Office.
If you or someone you love has been hurt by a clergy member of any faith, call the Attorney General’s Office at 1-855-323-3237, or call your local law enforcement agency.