US attorney letter to bishops hints at wider federal interest in priest abuse scandal

Prosecutors are investigating possible violations of federal law.

Steve Tawa
October 29, 2018 - 1:08 pm
Christ the King Church on June 4, 2014, in University City, Mo.

Chris Lee/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/MCT/Sipa USA

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Now that a federal investigation is underway into child sex abuse across Roman Catholic churches in Pennsylvania, a letter from the U.S. attorney in Philadelphia to the hierarchy of bishops nationwide signals a wider probe.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops confirmed receiving the demand letter from U.S. Attorney Bill McSwain. The very first sentence reads his prosecutors are "investigating possible violations of federal law," which hints at a potential nationwide scope of interest.

The lawyer representing the bishops group responded to KYW Newsradio's inquiry with a written statement that it was complying. It reads: "We have transmitted the U.S. Attorney's letter at his request and in the spirit of cooperation with law enforcement."

The letter to Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the bishops conference, first surfaced on the Philadelphia-based Catholic news blog Whispers in the Loggia.

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McSwain requested in his letter that "documents be preserved in their current form and condition, and not be destroyed, discarded, disposed of, deleted, or altered in any way."