Credible claims of child sexual abuse have been filed against 28 Catholic priests who have served in Georgia since the 1940s. However, no current or ongoing allegations can be pursued criminally because either the accused perpetrator has passed away or the applicable statute of limitations has been reached.
Child Sex Abuse Allegations in Georgia
There were 13 credible allegations inside the Archdiocese of Atlanta, seven of which involved archdiocesan priests and six concerning priests in religious orders or linked with other dioceses. The investigation cited 15 additional credible complaints in the Diocese of Savannah, of which seven involved diocesan priests, and eight included members of religious orders.
According to the Catholic News Agency, the Prosecution Attorneys' Council of Georgia, which issued the study on Mar. 20, noted in a news release that the report contains thorough details of charges of sexual abuse and other sexual misbehavior, including grooming and misuse of authority, against adolescents and adults.
Archbishop Gregory J. Hartmayer of Atlanta stated that the archdiocese would not grant access to its communities to sexual predators. Throughout the past two decades, the church has undergone profound transformations. "We have worked diligently to comprehend better and avoid future instances of abuse. We will not deviate from the current zero-tolerance stance," Hartmayer added.
Moreover, Bishop Stephen Parkes of the Diocese of Savannah stated that the study "represents a voluntary effort by the Georgia Catholic Church to be truthful about the past and to hope for the continuous healing of abuse survivors." Parkes continued that the sexual abuse epidemic has been a scourge on the church and a source of tremendous pain.
In addition, Atlanta News First reported that in 2019, the Archdiocese of Atlanta and the Diocese of Savannah both consented to a review by a third party of "any records, files, documents, and reports concerning suspected child abuse that are in their control." The Prosecuting Attorneys' Council will conduct the study.
Throughout the investigation, no allegations were found that might be "criminally prosecuted." Only a few of the allegations have been considered in court. The statute of limitations does not apply to all of them. Instead, the study reveals instances of sexual misbehavior and abuse that occurred in the past inside the Archdiocese of Atlanta and the Diocese of Savannah. It tells the identities of 25 priests and lay individuals in Atlanta while concealing the identities of 12 priests. Additionally, some individuals from the Diocese of Savannah are named.
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In 2022, WSB-TV reported that the special prosecutor in charge of the investigation told Richard Belcher, an investigative reporter, that the final report on the study is expected to be completed by the middle of February 2023. It comes nearly four years after Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr initiated an investigation into allegations of sexual abuse committed by Roman Catholic priests or other individuals associated with the church.
Pete Skandalakis, the Executive Director of the Prosecuting Attorneys Council (PAC), stated that his office investigated close to a hundred allegations; however, he has not indicated whether or not he intends to refer any cases to the district attorneys in the various jurisdictions for further prosecution. The probe was disclosed by Carr in April 2019, several months after the Archdiocese of Atlanta and the Diocese of Savannah had agreed to cooperate with the investigation fully. The provisions were outlined in an official memorandum of understanding signed (MOU).
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