LOS ANGELES -- California prosecutors plan to issue subpoenas to half of the state's Catholic dioceses as part of a growing investigation into the church's handling of sex abuse cases, according to several dioceses and the California Catholic Conference.
The move marks another escalation of the California attorney general's investigation of the church scandal, which has already resulted in massive settlements for accusers and criminal charges against individual priests statewide.
The dioceses in Sacramento, Fresno, Orange, San Jose, Los Angeles and San Francisco received notices sometime last week that they would be issued the subpoenas. It's unclear whether any have officially received an order.
The Los Angeles Times reported in May that Attorney General Xavier Becerra would audit all 12 of the state's Roman Catholic dioceses on the procedures they follow with sex abuse cases and whether they complied with their reporting requirements.
Each diocese received a notice that they should preserve files and records pertaining to clergy sex abuse and mandatory reporting.
Steve Pehanich, of the California Catholic Conference, said, "We're not exactly sure why" the six subpoenas are being issued now, since those dioceses had been supplying the attorney general's office with records voluntarily since May. The California Catholic Conference is the public policy arm of the Catholic Church.
"We don't know how they selected them," he said.
As of Tuesday morning, the San Francisco and Sacramento dioceses had not received an official order, though they were notified last week that it was coming.
"We anticipate (the subpoena) any time," said Kevin Eckery, a representative for the Sacramento diocese.
Previous reports that all 12 dioceses in California received the notices are inaccurate, according to several dioceses. The San Bernardino, Oakland, Stockton, San Diego, Santa Rosa and Monterey dioceses had not been notified of a subpoena order as of Tuesday morning.