Fresno Catholic Church hiring FBI officials to investigate sexual abuse allegations

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno is taking action to investigate allegations of sexual abuse and misconduct by those in the ministry.

Bishop Armando Ochoa said files will be opened dating back to 1922.

By the end of the year - the diocese plans to release a list of those accused.

Officials won't say how many priests and deacons will be investigated, but Friday morning the highest ranking local leader promised to open personnel files dating back 97 years.

"Although labor intensive, it is essential that the current administration is fully aware of any record of sexual abuse, no matter how much time has passed," Bishop Armando Ochoa said.

The church is hiring a former FBI official to begin digging into church records starting this spring. The cost will be paid for by diocese reserves.

The diocese spokeswoman would not be specific on the number of allegations that will be looked into. She also would not address the time lag it took officials to address any abuse. She said church leaders have been grieving, praying, and studying about the right direction to take. Any unreported misconduct can still be investigated.

"We always want to be extending the invitation if you know anything about any type of abuse that ever took place in the church do not assume that the church was informed about it. Please come forward," said spokesperson Teresa Dominguez.

The latest nationwide church scandal broke late last year- after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court released a grand jury report on sex abuse in the Catholic Church, listing hundreds of accused clergy and detailing 70 years of misconduct and church response across the state.

Dominguez said the church wants to be transparent and open. In doing so, she also shared her own personal experience.

"I am also a survivor of abuse, so I can speak to this firsthand. It isn't just something I get out of a textbook," she said.

The diocese said due process will be given to those accused of wrongdoing. It's likely some are no longer alive. The Bishop recognizes the lifelong pain the abuse can cause to victims- and plan to address each allegation with healing in mind.
Copyright © 2021 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.