ATLANTA – Georgia Attorney General recently released a statement on a PAC report of child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.
In 2019, I convened a meeting with the Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council of Georgia (PAC), the Archdiocese of Atlanta, and the Georgia Catholic Conference to discuss the growing sexual abuse scandal plaguing the Roman Catholic Church globally. Our meeting led to PAC, the Archdiocese of Atlanta, and the Diocese of Savannah entering into a Memorandum of Understanding permitting PAC to conduct an independent review of Church records concerning suspected child abuse at the hands of Church leaders in Georgia.
On March 24, 2023, PAC released its 267-page report , and it confirms what many have feared and suspected. While PAC’s report did not uncover any current, ongoing or unreported sexual abuse by priests, it did reveal historical criminal allegations in Georgia against priests. The report shows that prior to 2002, the Catholic Church in the Archdiocese of Atlanta and the Diocese of Savannah knew about and enabled sexual abuse of minors by its priests, prevented the discovery and investigation of these acts by public or civil authorities, and relocated priests after they were accused of sexually abusing children.
This abuse and cover-up by the Church prior to 2002 is horrific and indefensible. As I turned each page of this 267-page report and saw the pattern that emerged and the number of lives destroyed, it further sickened and angered me. It is a travesty of justice that this was ever allowed to occur, either in the Church or anywhere in the State of Georgia, but it must never be tolerated again.
The PAC report clearly cites the implementation of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People in 2002 as a critical turning point for the Catholic Church in Georgia. The Charter requires specific actions to be taken when allegations of child abuse are filed, including notifying the appropriate secular authorities, such as law enforcement or the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS). It is clear that these new policies have proven effective, and I encourage the Church to continue to educate Catholics in Georgia and others on ways to report abuse.
As a Roman Catholic myself, I am fully aware of the impact, devastation and deep distrust the issue of sexual abuse within the Church has had on its members and Georgians as a whole. Significant damage was done over many years, and the healing will not be quick.
The public release of this report gives a voice to victims, rightfully exposes those who were abusers or shamefully covered up abuse, and begins to lift the cloud of suspicion from the many good, decent and devout leaders, priests and lay Catholics in the state who have done nothing wrong.
I am deeply grateful to Pete Skandalakis, Executive Director of PAC, and Lalaine Briones, Deputy Director of PAC, for their willingness to take on this important task and for the thoroughness of their report. I also thank the Archdiocese of Atlanta and Diocese of Savannah for their full cooperation during this process, which I believe was a critical first step for many who have long looked for transparency, accountability and healing regarding the Catholic Church in Georgia.
If you are a victim of sexual abuse, or if you know someone who is a victim of sexual abuse, we hope you will use the resources below to seek help.
PAC’s Report of Child Sexual Abuse in the Archdiocese of Atlanta and the Diocese of Savannah can be viewed and downloaded here . Read PAC’s press release announcing the publication of the report here: https://pacga.org/2023/03/24/press-release-catholic-church/.
If you suspect a child is being abused, call DFCS at 1-855-GA-CHILD (1-855-422-4453). If you have an immediate emergency, call 911 or local law enforcement. Find additional information about the DFCS reporting process here: https://dfcs.georgia.gov/services/child-abuse-neglect.
The following information comes from the Archdiocese of Atlanta: If an allegation of abuse involves any member of the clergy, employee or volunteer of the Archdiocese of Atlanta, you must contact the Office of the District Attorney and the Office of Child and Youth Protection in addition to DFCS within 24 hours. Call the Archdiocesan 24-Hour Abuse Reporting Hotline at 1-888-437-0764 or visit the Office of Child and Youth Protection website here: https://archatl.com/offices/child-and-youth-protection/.
The following information comes from the Diocese of Savannah: If you are a victim of abuse by clergy, an employee or a volunteer in the Diocese of Savannah, or if you know of anyone who has been a victim of such misconduct, please contact civil authorities and the Diocesan 24-Hour Child Abuse Reporting Hotline at 1-888-357-5330. Visit the Office of Child and Youth Protection website here: https://www.diosav.org/offices/child-and-youth-protection.
To find your local District Attorney, visit PAC’s website here: https://pacga.org/find-your-prosecutor/.