Authorities in Nebraska have issued subpoenas to more than 400 Catholic churches and entities requesting records related to child sexual assault, the state’s Department of Justice said Tuesday.
The office of Doug Peterson, the Nebraska Attorney General, said it has appreciated cooperation from the churches in the past.
“However, the department believes that subpoenas are necessary in order to ensure all reports of impropriety have been submitted to the appropriate authorities,” it said. “It is our goal that all reports of abuse are subject to complete law enforcement review and investigation as warranted.”
The Archdiocese of Omaha said it was aware of a subpoena.
“We are cooperating with the attorney general’s office, and we are in communication with the attorney general about the timeline to respond and the scope of the subpoena,” it said.
The Diocese of Lincoln said it was reviewing the subpoena.
It said it has voluntarily cooperated with prosecutors since the investigation was announced in September. The diocese “pledged its ongoing support to stop criminal behavior by predators.”
The state’s other diocese, The Roman Catholic Diocese of Grand Island, said: “While we don’t believe subpoenas were necessary, we will continue to share information with the Nebraska Attorney General’s Office to bring this investigation to a conclusion.”
The subpoenas request all records or information related to child sexual assault or abuse that may have been committed by those employed or associated with each church or institution, whether previously reported or not, the attorney general’s office said.
The news comes a day after the Vatican wrapped up an unprecedented summit on combating sexual abuse by clergy. Nearly 200 Catholic leaders from around the world went to the Vatican to address the crisis.
Thursday, the Pope opened the summit by urging the bishops and other church leaders to commit to taking concrete actions. “The holy people of God are looking at us and expect from us not simple condemnations,” Francis said, “but concrete and effective measures to put in place. We need to be concrete.”
The Pope then said he had made a list of 21 “reflection points” that were handed out to the assembly of church leaders, which included preparing a “practical handbook” of guidelines for handling abuse cases when accusations emerge.
Also included are instructions to inform civil authorities and church officials whenever an accusation is made, establishing provisions to include nonclergy experts in investigations, as well as formulating “mandatory codes of conduct” for all church clergy, personnel and volunteers “to outline appropriate boundaries in personal relationships.”
More controversially, the Pope proposed that dioceses and Catholic organizations around the world not publish lists of clergy accused of abuse before a preliminary investigation and “definitive” condemnation have occurred.
Other prosecutors in the United States slammed the Catholic Church, saying it should not be trusted to police itself.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said Thursday on Twitter that “the Pope promised real change to protect children. Based on our investigation, it’s clear that the church cannot be trusted to police itself.”
The investigations follow a damning report released by a grand jury in Pennsylvania last August that accused more than 300 “predator priests” of sexually abusing more than 1,000 children in six dioceses since 1947. The vast majority of cases occurred before Catholic bishops in the US instituted new child-safety protocols.
CNN’s Daniel Burke, Sheena Jones and Melissa Alonso contributed to this report.