ROCKVILLE, Md. - The U.S. Attorney’s Office is launching a new effort to uncover sexual abuse by the clergy in the wake of Pope Francis accepting the resignation of Washington Archdiocese Cardinal Donald Wuerl.
Federal law enforcement officials say they are looking to identify victims for potential criminal prosecution.
U.S. Attorney Jessie Liu said survivors of child sexual abuse by clergy are being asked to share their experiences with federal investigators. They also want to hear from anyone with knowledge of such abuse.
On Sunday – on FOX 5’s “On the Hill” – Becky Ianni, the head of the Survivors Network of Abuse by Priests, said she had given up on the Catholic Church policing itself, and called on law enforcement officials to step in.
"I've given up counting on the church. We've seen over and over and over again, and I think the Pope's letter about Wuerl -- I think that was the final straw for me. I cannot trust the church to investigate itself. I am going to trust law enforcement," Ianni said.
To jumpstart this effort to get the victims to come forward, the U.S. Attorney’s Office set up a hotline, email address and a website to collect information about sexual abuse as part of their Superior Court intake process. They will then determine whether any criminal charges can be brought or if victim services should be provided.
The Archdiocese of Washington has been reeling in the wake of back-to-back scandals – first the sexual abuse allegations against former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, and then the resignation of Cardinal Wuerl after he was criticized in a Pennsylvania grand jury report.
At St. Elizabeth’s Church in Rockville, Maryland, the parish council is launching a letter-writing campaign asking the papal ambassador for answers before moving forward with Wuerl’s replacement.
"All we're asking people to do is sign a letter asking for three simple things: truth, accountability, and transparency - truth about what happened with Cardinal McCarrick, accountability for those responsible for that, and transparency in the appointment of future bishops. It's a very, very simple campaign," St. Elizabeth’s pastor Monsignor Bill Parent said.
The Archdiocese of Washington said they had no comment on the U.S. Attorney’s announcement today, and only learned of it through the media.
A spokesman told FOX 5 that church leaders, including Wuerl, have already said they support law enforcement taking action.