Friday, October 26, 2018

Expanding PA Probe, Feds Warn US Church: "All Your Files Are Belong To Us"

As this scribe's routinely said among friends over these last four months, "Every time you turn around, something else blows up...."

...yet when this readership gets jumpy about the last thing that went off, that only shows an ignorance about the next one.

If you could, folks, please keep that in mind – this is a long ride, with no end in sight.

Along those lines, over the last 48 hours, many of you have had Memphis on your lips given Wednesday's striking removal of Bishop Martin Holley – given his steadfast refusal to resign, the first such Roman ouster of a US prelate in living memory – followed quickly by the deposed prelate's even more breathtaking self-immolation in an interview published late Thursday by Catholic News Agency. 

Well-placed as that focus might've been yesterday, over the hours since, something even bigger's come to pass....


A week since initial word emerged of the US Department of Justice's most sweeping investigation to date into abuse and its cover-up, as an extension into the Feds' nascent grand-jury probe of the dioceses of Pennsylvania, every last Stateside Chancery has now received an effective nationwide order "to not destroy, discard, dispose of, delete, or alter" a host of records pertaining to personnel in general, and abuse – and its related claims – in particular.

Dated October 9th – the same day the FBI swooped in with subpoenas for the clerical files of Pennsylvania's eight Latin-church dioceses and two Eastern archeparchies – the letter was privately circulated to the nation's hierarchy by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops on Tuesday, 23 October, and has duly spread since among internal counsels and personnel-chiefs across the Stateside church's 198 jurisdictions.

Addressed to the bench's president, Houston's Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, the "requested" national "hold" of documents was signed by William McSwain, the Trump-appointed US Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, whose Philadelphia-based office has launched the historic investigation – believed to be the first such inquest seeking to put the church under the microscope of the Federal "RICO" laws: the racketeering statutes usually reserved for organized crime.

While Whispers has obtained and confirmed the full document – which includes a sprawling, 20-point addendum citing specific instances in Canon Law – to avoid what's become an increasingly casual and common plagiarism of these pages' work by other entities, here's the first page of McSwain's letter:

Originally slated for Wednesday of this week, house ops report that the first appearance of the Pennsylvania bishops before the Federal panel has been slightly delayed. 

Meanwhile, given the lack of civil or canonical jurisdiction the DC Mothership has over the local churches – an issue likewise relevant to the coming debates over prelates' accountability apart from the oversight of the Holy See – it bears noting that legal disputes over the force of any request to the USCCB have already flared up anew in Chanceries and beyond. Nonetheless, as it's the Feds calling, to an unprecedented degree, the warning is served.

Keeping with the Justice Department's usual practice, the US Attorney's Office in Philadelphia routinely refuses to "confirm or deny" the existence of the Pennsylvania investigation, its explicit communication on the case only to occur if and when indictments are produced.

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All that said, as ever, this grade of reporting doesn't come out of thin air – and especially as $800 is due today for these pages' base in Baltimore for the coming plenary, the reminder's again in order that these pages can't exactly keep afloat on "Hail Marys"....