Attorney General's Office: S.C. Grand Jury can't investigate church sex abuse


More than 300 Catholic priests were recently accused of sexually abusing more than 1,000 Pennsylvania children over several decades.

The news has led the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) to call for more attorneys general to investigate the sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests in the other 49 states

However a South Carolina grand jury cannot investigate similar child sex abuse crimes, because the subpoena power necessary to investigate similar crimes is not available under South Carolina law.

Rob Kittle, Communications Director for the South Carolina Attorney General's Office, says it will investigate if cases are brought to their office:

"State grand jury law does not include priest sexual abuse or child sexual abuse. Having said that, we do handle cases of pastor or priest sexual abuse," Kittle says. "We do not have any pending cases but it is certainly something the Attorney General takes seriously and we would investigate and prosecute if brought to us."

Tim Lennon, the SNAP president of the board of directors says, “They [Grand Jury] have subpoena power. We can’t rely on the church to take action, we can’t rely on just letting the status quo exist.”

The recent Pennsylvania grand jury investigation revealed a priest with ties to Charleston had been accused of sexual abuse.

The late Reverend Robert E. Spangenberg, who was at one time a pastor at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Charleston, was named one of the perpetrators.

He is accused of molesting two boys. Spangenberg passed away in 2006. In a statement, the Diocese said there's no record Spangenberg committed any misconduct in Charleston:

The Diocese has been able to confirm today is that father Robert Spangenberg served as a priest at St. Patrick Catholic church. He was a member of the congregation of the Holy Spirit (Spiritans). To the best of our knowledge, there is no record of any allegations of misconduct made against Father Spangenberg while he was assigned to the parish.

Since the Pennsylvania grand jury report, a civil lawsuit has been filed in Charleston County court against the Catholic Diocese of Charleston, alleging new claims of child sexual abuse by a dead former priest convicted of child sex crimes in the 1990s.

The lawsuit names Rev. Frederick Hopwood as the abuser. Hopwood, who died in 2017, pleaded guilty in 1994 to committing a lewd act against a minor. The plea was in exchange for immunity from prosecution on other child sex assault accusations, Charleston County court records show.

That lawsuit comes from the same firm that recently accused the Catholic Dioceses of Charleston of covering up sexual abuse commuted by two teachers 50 years ago at the former Sacred Heart Catholic School (now the Charleston Catholic School).

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