(Reuters) - Missouri is launching a probe of potential sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. Louis, state Attorney General Josh Hawley said on Thursday, following last week's Pennsylvania report finding widespread clergy sex abuse in the state.
Hawley said his office does not have the power to force institutions to cooperate with criminal investigations but was able to launch the probe after the archdiocese agreed to help.
"They say they want to cooperate fully and I'm confident they will," Hawley told reporters on a conference call.
The probe initially covers only the Archdiocese of St. Louis, one of five Roman Catholic dioceses in the state, Hawley said. He asked the bishops of the four other dioceses to agree to cooperate with the probe.
Pennsylvania officials last week released the results of a two-year grand jury probe that found evidence that at least 1,000 people, mostly children, had been sexually abused by some 300 clergymen in the state during the past 70 years. The report said the numbers of actual victims and abusers could be much higher.
Similar reports have emerged in Europe, Australia and Chile, prompting lawsuits and investigations, sending dioceses into bankruptcy and undercutting the moral authority of the leadership of the Catholic Church, which has some 1.2 billion members around the world.
(Reporting by Scott Malone in Boston and Bernie Woodall in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Editing by Tom Brown)
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Updated Date: Aug 24, 2018 02:06:38 IST