For the first time ever, the Justice Department has opened an investigation into child sex abuse within the Catholic Church. Seven of the eight Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania said Thursday they had received subpoenas. CBS News has learned the U.S. attorney in Buffalo, New York, has also served the diocese there. The focus involves alleged trafficking of minors across state lines for the purpose of sex abuse.
The news of the first federal probe into sex abuse in the church comes the day after an “Eye on America” report on the “CBS Evening News” in which two victims confronted the priest they say abused them when they were children. In the 24 hours since the story of a confrontation with Rev. George Koharchik aired, messages of support flooded Shaun Dougherty’s phone.
Dougherty said he heard from other alleged victims and countless supporters from around the world.
“Overwhelming show of support,” he said.
Dougherty and Brian Sabo both say Koharchik molested them as children at their Catholic grade school in Johnstown, Pennsylvania.
“I came to tell you I don’t want to think about you anymore. I can’t forgive you,” Sabo told Koharchik when the three met. The encounter in a restaurant was captured on hidden cameras.
Sabo said the response from other victims made him emotional again.
Dougherty was at the Pennsylvania Capitol with other survivors on Thursday, advocating for a bill that would give victims who are now adults a two-year retroactive window to sue their alleged abusers and the Catholic Church. The bill failed.
Dougherty watched his story air with fellow survivors.
“Everybody was concerned, ‘How are you doing?’ You know, ‘How is it?'” he said. “The attorney general watched it and he contacted me before I had seen it. He told me it was very powerful … and it would help people.”
Dougherty said he has spoken with federal investigators but said he cannot comment further.