A grand jury is investigating allegations of sexual abuse against 24 Catholic priests as part of a probe that began with the arrest of a defrocked clergyman in March, a prosecutor said.
The state panel has been unable to pursue complaints against 10 other priests, some of whom have died, Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce said Wednesday.
Joyce declined to release any information about the 24 priests, including if they are serving in an active ministry. She said most of the cases happened so long ago the grand jury is facing a cold evidentiary trail and legal issues with the statue of limitations.
“They are just allegations,” Joyce said. “There are no charges. Whether or not they pan out into charges or indictments remains to be seen.”
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch first reported the news on its Web site Wednesday.
In a statement, the Archdiocese of St. Louis said that, to its knowledge, none of the allegations had been substantiated.
“While we do not comment on individual cases, we know of no priest of the archdiocese currently serving in a parish or in a ministry with young people of whom there has been a substantiated allegation of sexual abuse of a minor,” the statement said.
Joyce’s comments came as the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops prepared to meet in Dallas to work on a national policy to rid the priesthood of abusers.
All the complaints under investigation followed a request by Joyce in March urging victims of sexual abuse to come forward. “When that happened, it was kind of like turning on a faucet,” she said. “We got tons of calls.”
The plea came as her office charged a defrocked priest who was dismissed from the clergy in 1977 amid sexual abuse allegations. The charges, two counts of sexual misconduct, stem from when he worked as an elementary school counselor.
In other developments:
_Three brothers allegedly abused by a Mississippi priest filed a $39 million lawsuit naming the clergyman and the Diocese of Jackson, including Bishop William Houck and former Vicar General Bernard Law.
The brothers claim the abuse continued after the allegations were reported to Law, now cardinal of the Archdiocese of Boston, where the national scandal engulfing the church emerged earlier this year.
Donna Morrissey, a spokeswoman for the Boston Archdiocese, said she had not seen the lawsuit and could not comment. A call to the Jackson diocese seeking comment was not returned.
The abuse allegedly took place in the early 1970s when the brothers were about ages 5 to 14.
_In Detroit, prosecutors said statutes of limitations and other factors will prevent authorities from charging 11 priests in the Archdiocese of Detroit accused of abuse.
Three of the priests have died, said Oakland County prosecutor David Gorcyca. In another case, the alleged victim declined to cooperate.
The cases were detailed in records the Archdiocese of Detroit turned over to prosecutors last month.
A grand jury issued subpoenas to the Archdiocese of Los Angeles ordering church officials to turn over the personnel records of three priests under investigation for alleged sexual abuse.
District Attorney Steve Cooley turned to the grand jury after an archdiocese lawyer refused to release the documents on the Revs. Michael Stephen Baker, Michael Wempe and David Granadino.
Three women calling themselves Friends of Weakland are trying to raise money to repay part of former Milwaukee Archbishop Rembert Weakland’s $450,000 settlement with a man who accused him of sexual assault.
The group mailed out nearly 300 letters to their friends since forming the group Friday. Each letter asks for $1,000 but says the group will accept any amount.