A long-awaited grand jury investigation found evidence of decades of sexual abuse cover-ups among six of the eight Roman Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania.
The 900 page report, released on Tuesday 15 August, implicated at least 300 so-called ‘predator priests’. These priests committed ‘criminal and/or morally reprehensible conduct.’
One priest in the Diocese of Erie admitted to assaulting at least a dozen boys. He was later thanked by the bishop for ‘all that you have done for God’s people.’
Another priest in Harrisburg abused five sisters in a single family. A third in Greensburg impregnated at 17-year-old, married her, and divorced her just months later.
According to NPR, the grand jury reviewed half a million pages of internal church documents and ‘secret archives’ available only to bishops. Credible accounts were found by more than 1,000 victims.
The findings date back at least 80 years. ‘It detailed how fellow clergy members conducted shoddy investigations into sexual abuse allegations and how bishops often sided with abusive priests,’ NPR reports.
‘Despite some institutional reform, individual leaders of the church have largely escaped public accountability. Priests were raping little boys and girls, and the men of God who were responsible for them not only did nothing; they hid it all,’ the report states.
‘For decades. Monsignors, auxiliary bishops, bishops, archbishops, cardinals have mostly been protected; many, including some named in this report, have been promoted. Until that changes, we think it is too early to close the book on the Catholic Church sex scandal.’
The report counted 41 ‘predator priests’ in Erie, 37 in Allentown, 20 in Greensburg, 45 in Harrisburg, 99 in Pittsburgh, and 59 in Scranton.
‘The pattern was abuse, deny and cover up,’ said state Attorney General Josh Shapiro during a press conference.
As part of this report, the grand jury made a series of recommendations. One such recommendation is to eliminate the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse. It also suggested a ‘civil window’ law, which would allow victims two years to file civil charges retroactively.
‘We saw these victims; they are marked for life. Many of them wind up addicted, or impaired, or dead before their time,’ the grand jury wrote.
This report comes just a couple months after a priest from Allentown was removed following a lawsuit claiming he had sexually abused a teen boy.