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Investigation may uncover ‘thousands’ of clergy abuse survivors

As the Department of Attorney General’s criminal investigation into clergy abuse has progressed, we have learned more and more about the injustices that occurred. But recent comments by the attorney general herself suggest what we’ve seen so far is only the tip of the iceberg.

In a year-end announcement, the department detailed its findings. Since obtaining 1.5 million paper documents and 3.5 million electronic records in late 2018, more than two dozen volunteers have joined the effort to pore through the evidence. The office has already uncovered troubling figures.

A review of paper documents from just three dioceses – Marquette, Gaylord and Grand Rapids – resulted in the discovery of 552 clergy abuse survivors. In totality, they named 270 priests as abusers.

More charges, more survivors

While seven priests have been criminally charged (two of which have resulted in convictions), the attorney general said she expects to announce more charges in 2020, possibly as early as January.

They have already identified 130 cases for investigation and review. About 50 of those were closed either because the allegations were outside the criminal statute of limitations, or because the alleged abuser has died. However, the office is actively investigating 45 clergy abuse cases, and referred another 25 cases back to the diocese for further action.

In addition to the paper and electronic evidence, the office has also received more than 640 tips.

All told, once the investigation is complete – which could take far longer than the initial two-year estimate – the attorney general believes they will have identified “thousands” of survivors of clergy abuse.

“I am extremely proud of the work we have completed so far and am confident our office will continue to investigate these cases as thoroughly as possible to provide justice for victims,” the attorney general said.

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