As Attorney General of Georgia and a Roman Catholic myself, I am concerned and angered by continued reports of abuse in the Catholic Church. In addition, I remain deeply troubled by the overall response to this crisis by leadership of the Church.
Let me be clear: any sexual abuse – and specifically, abuse by an adult against a child – is wrong. It does not matter whether sexual abuse occurs in the context of human trafficking, by a friend or family member, a teacher or a coach, a public employee, or, as here, by a priest or church official. It must not – and will not – be tolerated.
Under Georgia law, such crimes primarily fall under the jurisdiction of local District Attorneys for prosecution. If you or somebody who you know may have been a victim of a crime by a priest or other church official, I encourage you to immediately contact your local District Attorney or the District Attorney for the location where the abuse occurred. I would also gladly have our office assist in either making contact with or forwarding any information to the appropriate District Attorney’s office.
Although neither the Georgia Constitution nor the Georgia legislature has granted authority for the Attorney General to investigate or prosecute crimes against children, I will still commit any and all appropriate attention and resources from the Department of Law to hold accountable those who have committed or concealed any crimes in the past, to provide support to those who are victims and to do everything in my power to protect our citizens in the future.
I also call on the leadership, clergy and lay members of the Catholic Church in Georgia to unwaveringly commit to a new day of transparency and openness to solve this crisis, allow victims to truly heal, and ensure that nothing like this occurs again.
If there are priests or others associated with the Catholic Church in Georgia who are known to have engaged in acts of abuse against children, I call on the Church to bring to light those cases and to be an active participant to ensure justice is done. If a priest was responsible for the abuse, then I call on the Church to take immediate action to remove him from the ranks of the priesthood.
If leadership in the Catholic Church in Georgia has participated in any way to conceal or shield these individuals from punishment or prosecution, I ask that those individuals be removed from leadership and be held accountable as appropriate as well.
These steps are the only way to protect our citizens and to best serve Catholics in Georgia. There are many good, decent and devout leaders, priests and lay Catholics in this state. Only by affirmatively taking steps to remove and hold accountable those who have done wrong can the Church finally move forward and remove the cloud that currently hangs over it.