HARRISBURG, Pa. - On Tuesday, an extensive report from a two-year grand jury investigation into widespread sexual abuse and coverups in the Catholic Church was released. Attorney General Josh Shapiro held a lengthy news conference afterward where he reviewed the findings.
The report identified 301 priests accused of abuse in six dioceses in Pennsylvania. According to members of the grand jury, more than 1,000 child victims were identified and there are believed to be many more than that.
According to Shapiro, the Catholic sex abuse grand jury reviewed more than 500,000 pages of documents, including many from the dioceses themselves that outlined the coverup and "secret archives" about the abuse.
Shapiro called it a "systematic coverup" at the local level and all the way up to the Vatican. He spoke about how this investigation built on the work by the Boston Globe "Spotlight" team, and subsequent investigations in other dioceses.
Shapiro discussed how the report is redacted in some parts following a lengthy legal battle.
“Every redaction represents an incomplete story of abuse that deserves to be revealed,” he said. “My office is not satisfied with the release of a redacted report.”
PRIESTS AND PARISHES
An overview of the offenders identified by the Catholic sex abuse grand jury in each of the local dioceses:
- Diocese of Allentown – 37 offenders
- Diocese of Erie – 41 offenders
- Diocese of Greensburg – 20 offenders
- Diocese of Harrisburg – 45 offenders
- Diocese of Pittsburgh - 99 offenders
- Diocese of Scranton – 59 offenders
DETAILS OF THE COVERUP
Shapiro discussed the various ways victims were denied help when reporting alleged sexual abuse to local police and others within the Catholic church.
"Stand up today, right now, and announce your support for these common sense reforms. That is the real test that will determine whether or not things have really changed," @PAAttorneyGen challenges Pa. bishops to adopt 4 grand jury recommendations. https://t.co/GNeq70Zf3G pic.twitter.com/iAA0bKB5Ki— WPXI (@WPXI) August 14, 2018
One victim mentioned by Shapiro felt so strong about his faith after the abuse that he joined the ranks of ordained ministers, but as he learned more about the extent of the coverup, he left the church and began working as a victims advocate.
According to Shapiro, priests accused of abuse were allowed to continue working in the parishes. Several of the church officials allegedly involved in the coverup are Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington and former bishop of Pittsburgh, and Pittsburgh Diocese Bishop David Zubik.
GRAND JURY RECOMMENDATIONS
Citing the lack of ability to formally charge many people, the Catholic sex abuse grand jury submitted several recommendations for legal changes. Among the suggestions are expanding the statute of limitations, expanding the window for lawsuits against the alleged predators, clarifying the penalties for failing to report child abuse and prohibiting non-disclosure agreements about criminal activity.
“Courtesy of the long years of coverup, we can't charge most of the culprits. What we can do is tell our fellow citizens what happened, and try to get something done about it. That is why we make these recommendations for legal changes that respond to what we have learned in our investigation,” the grand jury report said.
"We should emphasize that, while the list of priests is long, we don't think we got them all. We feel certain that many victims never came forward, and that the dioceses did not create written records every single time they heard something about abuse," the grand jury report says.
As Shaprio talks about one priests’ actions of abuse, the victim sobs behind him — this is painful and so emotional, this priest is accused of sexually assaulting 5 sisters of the same family #WPXI— Melanie Marsalko (@WPXIMelanie) August 14, 2018
Shapiro spoke about Diocese of Erie Bishop Lawrence Persico, who testified before the Catholic sex abuse grand jury about how the coverup and failure to report abuse made him angry.
“This gives me hope for a path forward,” Shapiro said.
Reading the nearly 900 page report released by the grand jury investigating sex abuse in Diocese throughout PA, including Pittsburgh and Greensburg. Reading several references to Cardinal Wuerl and Bishop Zubik meeting with victims about abuse that didn't get reported to police— Aaron Martin (@WPXIAaronMartin) August 14, 2018
Shapiro ended his hourlong news conference by discussing the plan to continue fighting against abuse in all institutions.
“Our investigation into child sexual abuse within the Catholic church remains ongoing,” he said.
A hotline for people to report abuse by church officials has also been created: 888-538-8541.
“Stand up today, right now, and announce your support for these common sense reforms. That is the real test that will determine whether or not things have really changed,” he said.
“Every redaction represents an incomplete story of abuse that deserves to be revealed," he said.
"My office is not satisfied with the release of a redacted report," @JoshShapiroPA just said during a live news conference to talk about the grand jury report on child sexual abuse in Pa. Catholic churches. Watch LIVE HERE > https://t.co/GNeq70Zf3G pic.twitter.com/UkyIuo9Ybo— WPXI (@WPXI) August 14, 2018
Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington, says he expects a grand jury report being released Tuesday on the sexual abuse of children by clergy in six Pennsylvania Roman Catholic dioceses to be critical of his actions as the former longtime bishop of Pittsburgh. >>FULL STORY
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Time is ticking down to a court-ordered deadline Tuesday afternoon to decide what information to black out in a forthcoming grand jury report investigating child sexual abuse in six of Pennsylvania's Roman Catholic dioceses.
A state Supreme Court order issued last month set a timetable to publicly release a redacted version of the grand jury's roughly 900-page report, and justices appointed a county judge to help state prosecutors and lawyers for clergy members named in it to decide what portions to release.
Court records in a months-long legal fight over the report say it identifies more than 300 "predator priests" and that grand jurors accuse church leaders of brushing aside victims to protect abusers and church institutions.
However, some clergy members named in the forthcoming document say they are wrongfully accused and are fighting to challenge the allegations against them. The identities of those clergy members remain under court seal and the state's high court plans to consider oral arguments on their claims in September.
In the meantime, the justices ordered the release of the report with redactions that conceal the identities of the clergy members who filed legal challenges.
A couple of dioceses have gotten out ahead of the report and released the names of clergy members who were accused of sexual misconduct with children. On Friday, the bishop of Pittsburgh's diocese said a few priests named in the report are still in ministry because the diocese determined allegations against them were unsubstantiated.
The grand jury investigated the Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh and Scranton dioceses, which together minister to more than 1.7 million Catholics.
Grand juries previously investigated child sexual abuse in the Philadelphia and Altoona-Johnstown dioceses.
The bishop of Erie's diocese wrote in a two-page letter that was to be read during Sunday services at all 97 parishes that it was "shocking to read the graphic details of exactly what occurred."
- List of alleged predator priests in Pittsburgh and Greensburgh Diocese
"The most important thing I want to do at this moment is to express my sorrow to the victims of sexual abuse that occurred within the Diocese of Erie," Bishop Lawrence Persico wrote. "As the grand jury report demonstrates, they have experienced cruel behavior by the very individuals who should have had the greatest interest in protecting them. They have suffered in darkness for a very long time."
In Pennsylvania, criminal charges can only be brought under the statute of limitations in effect at the time of the crime.
For those alleging abuse in the 1970s, that means two years from when it happened. For others, it means two years after they turned 18. Current state law allows prosecutors to file criminal charges before the one-time child victim turns 50 and for victims to seek civil damages in court before they turn 30.
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