LOS ANGELES (CNS) - California prosecutors are issuing subpoenas to half of the state's Catholic dioceses -- including the dioceses of Los Angeles and Orange counties -- as part of a growing investigation into the church's handling of sex abuse cases, it was reported today.
The move -- reported by several dioceses and the California Catholic Conference -- marks another escalation of the California attorney general's investigation of the church scandal, which already has resulted in massive settlements for accusers and criminal charges against individual priests statewide, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The dioceses in Los Angeles, Orange, Sacramento, Fresno, San Jose and San Francisco received notices sometime last week that they would be issued the subpoenas. The Diocese of Orange and the Diocese of San Jose have been officially served with the subpoena orders.
The Times reported in May that Attorney General Xavier Becerra would audit all 12 of the state's Roman Catholic dioceses on the procedures they follow with sex abuse cases and whether they complied with their reporting requirements. Each diocese received a notice that they should preserve files and records pertaining to clergy sex abuse and mandatory reporting, The Times reported.
Steve Pehanich of the California Catholic Conference said, “we're not exactly sure why” the six subpoenas are being issued now, since those dioceses had been supplying the attorney general's office with records voluntarily since May. The California Catholic Conference is the public policy arm of the Roman Catholic Church. “We don't know how they selected them,” he said.
The Diocese of Orange said in a statement that it “views the (attorney general) as a partner, not an adversary, in the mutual goal to extinguish abuse; it will strictly comply with its legal obligations; and it appreciates the opportunity to highlight its diligence and efforts in care of the faithful.”
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