(Reuters) – The U.S. Justice Department has opened an investigation into child sex abuse by priests in Pennsylvania, four Roman Catholic Church dioceses said on Thursday.
The dioceses of Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Erie and Allentown told Reuters that they had received federal subpoenas following a state grand jury report that alleged over 300 Catholic priests in Pennsylvania had sexually abused children over 70 years. The Associated Press first reported on Thursday the Justice Department investigation.
The dioceses said they were cooperating with the investigation but declined further comment.
The Justice Department and U.S. Attorney’s Office in Philadelphia declined to comment.
An 884-page report made public in August by Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro after a two-year investigation contained graphic examples of children being groomed and sexually abused by clergymen. Shapiro said at the time that it was largely based on documents from secret archives kept by the dioceses, including handwritten confessions by priests.
The report cited 301 priests, some of whom have died.
In September, U.S. Catholic bishops said they would set up a hotline for accusations of sexual abuse against clergy members and lay persons employed by the Church.
(Reporting by Bernie Woodall in Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Writing by Andrew Hay Editing by Lisa Shumaker)