Virginia’s Attorney General is Investigating the Catholic Church

A grand jury report out of Pennsylvania, released in August of 2018, is inciting several state investigations into clergy abuse. Now, Virginia can count themselves among them.

The report outlined the sexual child abuse happening throughout the Catholic Church all around the country. It listed thousands of victims as well as their abusers. After learning some of those victims were in Virginia, Attorney General Mark Herring began conducting an investigation into Virginia’s Catholic dioceses.

In an announcement made on October 24, Herring stated he is investigating the clergy for any sexual child abuse that may have occurred. He is also investigating anyone who may have abetted or covered up that abuse.

It is unusual for law enforcement to comment on an ongoing investigation, but in this case, it was necessary. Herring is calling on the residents of Virginia to phone into the Virginia Clergy Abuse Hotline if they are aware of any such abuse occurring. In the statement, Herring said he was dedicated to helping victims get the justice that will help them heal.

While Herring may have just told the public about the investigation, it was launched several weeks ago. According to the statement, it began just a few days after the grand jury report was released. Several Virginians had contacted Herring with concerns about any type of abuse that may have happened in Virginia.

Virginia is certainly not the only state to start an investigation after the Pennsylvania grand jury report. At least 13 other states have launched their own investigations.

There are two Catholic dioceses in Virginia. Richmond has 153 churches around the state, and Arlington has 69 in Northern Virginia. In Richmond, Bishop Barry Knestout led a Mass of Atonement in early October. Throughout the mass he spoke to survivors and apologized to them for abuse they may have suffered from the diocese’s clergy.

The Richmond diocese have not publicly commented on the story, although allegations within this diocese have been made. The church has said it is providing full cooperation and have agreed to an independent audit to investigate those claims. If they prove to be valid, the Bishop has stated he will release the names of the abusing priests to the public.

In addition to criminal charges, sexual abuse victims also have a right to file a civil lawsuit against their abuser. The effects of sexual abuse remain with a person for the rest of their lives. There may be physical wounds, but often the emotional scars are far worse. A lawsuit cannot make the memory of the abuse go away, but it could provide compensation that could help pay for therapy, counseling, and whatever else is needed to help a person heal.

Anyone wishing to phone into the Virginia Clergy Abuse Hotline can do so at 1-833-454-9064 and remain anonymous. Reports of clergy abuse and anyone who helped cover up that abuse can also be made online at

Those wishing to file a civil lawsuit should speak to a personal injury attorney for assistance with a potential case.