KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- After investigating Catholic priests accused of sexual abuse, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt announced Friday that he has referred 12 former clergy members for possible criminal prosecution.
Schmitt released a 329-page report Friday detailing his office's yearlong investigation that involved interviews with victims and a review of personnel records dating back to 1945 of more than 2,000 priests and 300 deacons, seminarians and religious women.
The attorney general's office found 163 clergy members who had been accused of sexual abuse or misconduct of minors.
Of the 163, one case is currently under investigation by the church and five cases are being investigated by local prosecutors.
Sixteen cases already had been referred for criminal prosecution in the past. Eighty-three of the clergy members are dead. Forty of the remaining cases have fallen outside of Missouri's statute of limitations for prosecution.
The remaining 12 cases are the most referrals for prosecution made by an attorney general so far, Schmitt's office said Friday.
Clergy placed in Missouri by religious orders affiliated with the Catholic Church, such as Jesuits or Dominicans, were not investigated because the attorney general's office was not given access to their personnel records. The report listed recommendations for the Catholic Church to follow, including assuming greater oversight and responsibility for visiting priests.
"I also want to thank the brave victims who had the courage to come forward and share their stories," Schmitt said. "And I'd also like to take the opportunity to speak directly to the victims. You didn't deserve this. None of this was your fault. This report, our referrals for criminal prosecution, our aggressive and substantive recommendations for reform can't erase the past. But they can change the trajectory of the future. It can lead to people being brought to justice, and hopefully make sure that this never happens again."
Victims and their advocates were pleased to hear that some priests had been referred for possible prosecution, but many expressed frustration that they had not been contacted.
"Silenced again," said Joe Eldred, an abuse victim and one of 30 plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese that was settled for $10 million in 2014. "They're not really giving victims a voice.