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BALTIMORE (KDKA/AP) – As U.S. Catholic bishops gather for their national assembly, the clergy sex abuse crisis dominates their agenda amid calls from critics that church leaders finally bring about meaningful reforms to root out misbehaving priests.

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The three-day assembly that starts Monday in Baltimore comes after a series of abuse scandals this year that have been stunning in their magnitude and number.

Bishops have several reforms under consideration to craft a stronger response to the scandals, but some Catholic activists are demanding further steps, including releasing the names of all clergy accused of abuse and giving a greater voice to abuse victims. One activist coalition plans to post its demands on church doors in Baltimore and elsewhere on Sunday.

Meanwhile, federal prosecutors have opened an investigation of child sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priests in Pennsylvania, using subpoenas to demand secret files and testimony from high-ranking leaders in what victims’ advocates say is the first such probe ever launched by the U.S. Justice Department.

The subpoenas, served last week, follow a scathing state grand jury report over the summer that found that 301 “predator priests” in Pennsylvania had molested more than 1,000 children over seven decades and that church leaders had covered up for the offenders.


At least seven of the state’s eight Roman Catholic dioceses — Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Scranton, Erie, Greensburg, Allentown and Harrisburg — acknowledged receiving subpoenas.

Catholic Dioceses in western Pennsylvania said in statements Thursday that they would be fully cooperating with the federal investigation.

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The Diocese of Pittsburgh released the following statement:

“The Diocese of Pittsburgh has received the subpoena from the U.S. Department of Justice and will cooperate fully with any and all investigations of the sexual abuse of minors by clergy in Pennsylvania.”

Diocese of Greensburg spokesperson Jerry Zufelt issued this statement:

“This subpoena is no surprise considering the horrific misconduct detailed in the statewide Grand Jury Report. Survivors, parishioners and the public want to see proof that every diocese has taken sweeping, decisive and impactful action to make children safer. We see this as another opportunity for the Diocese of Greensburg to be transparent.

“Bishop Malesic has been with the Diocese of Greensburg for the last three years and in that time has made the protection of a children a top priority. The diocese will fully cooperate with this federal subpoena and will provide all the information requested, including details about the 15,000 people in the last 15 years who the diocese has background checked and trained to recognize the signs of abuse – along with our zero tolerance policy for any violation of the Code of Pastoral Conduct.”

The report also led to the resignation of Cardinal Donald Wuerl as archbishop of Washington. He was accused of helping to protect some child-molesting priests when he was bishop of Pittsburgh from 1988 to 2006.

(TM and © Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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