Pennsylvania Attorney General described it as the “largest, most comprehensive report into child sexual abuse within the Catholic Church ever produced in the United States.”
A grand jury report showed more than 300 “predator priests” were credibly accused of sexually abusing boys and girls. However, due to the number of records lost or those who were too scared to come forward, the jury said the real number should be in the thousands.
“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 church covered the reports up. Of the list were monsignors, auxiliary bishops, bishops, archbishops, cardinals that were protected by the church, some were even promoted. The jury called it a “playbook for concealing the truth.”
Six dioceses in Pennsylvania were investigated for clergy sexual abuse dating all the way back to 1945: Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh and Scranton. Earlier grand jury reports investigated Philadelphia and Altoona-Johnstown.
Catholic leaders victimized both boys and girls of pre-pubescent and teenage ages. Some victims were given alcohol at which point they were groped or molested. Some were orally, vaginally or anally raped.
The details are horrendous to go through. “But all of them were brushed aside, in every part of the state, by church leaders who preferred to protect the abusers and their institution above all.”
A Harrisburg priest raped a 7-year-old girl in the hospital after her tonsils were removed. A priest in Allentown was recommended to work at Disney World after he abused several boys. A priest in Scranton who served time for abusing children was found to have been HIV-positive for years. A priest in Greensburn groomed children for sex.
The Vatican Speaks Out
The Vatican broke its silence on Thursday about a Pennsylvania grand jury report that detailed decades of sexual abuses by priests and cover-ups by bishops, calling the accusations “criminal and morally reprehensible.”
“Regarding the report made public in Pennsylvania this week, there are two words that can express the feelings faced with these horrible crimes: shame and sorrow,” said Greg Burke, director of the Vatican’s Press Office.
Will Lawsuits Be Filed Against Pennsylvania Catholic Church?
Though nearly every instance of sexual abuse was too old to be prosecuted, charges have been filed against priests in Erie and Greensburg dioceses for abusing minors. It was indicated more indictments may happen in the future.
State lawmakers will be voting on whether or not to eliminate the statute of limitations after this report. This would lengthen the windows for lawsuits as well. Many victims will have already missed the window of opportunity, but this could be revolutionary in breaking a system of secrecy that has broken the lives of so many victims.
At this time, Pennsylvania law allows child victims to pursue criminal charges against their abuser until age 50. Civil lawsuits can be filed until age 30.
A bill proposed to the state House would move the lawsuit time limit to age 50. The bill, SB 261, has been resting in the house since last year after it passed unanimously by the Senate. One state lawmaker, a victim of abuse themselves, is trying to give victims temporary leeway to sue.
Republican House Majority Leader Dave Reed said he expects to schedule a vote for this fall. “With the timeliness of this report and its findings, the statute of limitations bill … is primed for discussion in the House,” he said in a statement on his website.
The grand jury recommended an elimination of the statute of limitations. “No piece of legislation can predict the point at which a victim of child sex abuse will find the strength to come forward,” the report said.
Contact a Lawyer Confidentiality – Catholic Church Sexual Abuse
If you or a loved one was abused by a member of the Pennsylvania Catholic Church, you are not alone. Our law firm would like to speak to survivors and assist you in learning more about the legal process in filing a lawsuit. In many states, there are strict confidentiality laws that allow one to file a suit but not be named. Our law firm offers a Free Confidential Evaluation. We respond promptly to inquiries and would be honored to speak with you.