May 13, 2005

Lehigh DA is asked for grand jury inquiry into Allentown diocese

The Morning Call

By Dan Sheehan
Of The Morning Call

A support group for victims of clergy sexual abuse has asked Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin to emulate his counterpart in Philadelphia by launching a grand jury investigation of the Catholic Diocese of Allentown.

The group, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, also wants Allentown Bishop Edward Cullen to release the names of all clergy members who have admitted molesting children or others ''who have been justifiably accused.''

Neither request seems likely to happen. In a statement, Martin said he has received no evidence to justify invoking ''the awesome power of an investigating grand jury.''

The diocese, meanwhile, said it has met its responsibilities by sharing names of accused priests with authorities and establishing programs to aid victims.

The abuse scandal in the Catholic Church erupted nationally in early 2002 when evidence emerged that, over the course of decades, thousands of priests and other clergy accused of abuse had been shuffled from parish to parish instead of being criminally charged. Eleven current and former priests from the Diocese of Allentown have been targeted in civil lawsuits claiming abuse.

At a news conference Thursday outside the Lehigh County Courthouse in Allentown, Survivors Network representatives said Martin could aid victims and prevent more abuse by letting the investigative body examine the ''alleged criminal conspiracy'' in the diocese.

Philadelphia District Attorney Lynn Abraham launched an ongoing grand jury probe of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia two years ago.

Posted by kshaw at May 13, 2005 07:01 AM