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The first paragraph from the Pennsylvania grand jury report issued Aug. 14.
The first paragraph from the Pennsylvania grand jury report issued Aug. 14.

Pennsylvania grand jury report alleges more than 1,000 abuse victims

Report states that priority of Church leaders “was not to help children but to avoid ‘scandal’”

Read Archbishop Robert J. Carlson's statement on the abuse report here.

WASHINGTON — A Pennsylvania grand jury report issued Aug. 14 paints a picture of a Catholic Church in six of the state’s dioceses that for decades handled claims of sex abuse of minors under its care by hiding the allegations and its victims.

More than 300 priests were linked to abuse claims and over 1,000 victims were identified, said Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro in a news conference following the report’s release.

“The main thing was not to help children but to avoid ‘scandal,’” says a biting sentence about the behavior of Church leaders and officials in the report, detailing a months-long investigation of clergy sex abuse claims in the dioceses of Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, Allentown, Scranton, Greensburg and Erie.

The report covers a period of 70 years, looking at the past and including information from the early 2000s, a time when news of the clerical sex abuse scandal erupted in the U.S. Before its release, some urged that the report be read keeping in mind that a lot has changed in the Church since then, and also that not all of the report’s claims are substantiated.

a map of Pennsylvania showing the six Catholic dioceses covered by a grand jury report on an investigation of abuse claims made in those dioceses. The report covers a span of more than 70 years.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of USCCB
In the Diocese of Pittsburgh, for example, a few priests named in the report are still working there, Pittsburgh Bishop David A. Zubik told local reporters in an Aug. 10 news conference, because, he said, Church officials could not substantiate claims of abuse made against them.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette newspaper reported that Bishop Zubik said: “There is no priest or deacon in an assignment today against whom there was a substantiated allegation of child sexual abuse.”

But there are many painful claims.

In the news conference, Shapiro described allegations of a priest who physically molested a group of children by telling them he was doing a “cancer check,” one who he said “impregnated” a girl, and others who had boys strike a religious pose naked to take pictures of them. He spoke of a “systematic cover-up” by Church officials who took information to the Vatican, who also did nothing to help victims, Shapiro said. He also spoke of priests who “weaponized faith” and had the victims go to confession for the sins, even as they were being victimized.

“I read the grand jury report on child sexual abuse with great sadness, for once again we read that innocent children were the victims of horrific acts committed against them,” stated Harrisburg Bishop Ronald. W. Gainer shortly after the document’s release. “I am saddened because I know that behind every story is a child precious in God’s sight; a child who has been wounded by the sins of those who should have known better.”

The grand jury said it found in its investigation that those who claimed sexual abuse of their children by Catholic clergy or other Church workers were “brushed aside,” and officials became more concerned with protecting the abusers because they wanted to protect the image of the Church, the report says.

Some of those named in the report had their names redacted, or blacked out, after challenging the inclusion of their identities in it without having the legal opportunity to defend themselves. They are scheduled to have a hearing with the court in September.

Some of the dioceses involved said they would release the names of those facing “credible allegations” in the report when the document was made public and some of them did so, following the news conference.

Some, such as the Diocese of Harrisburg, made its list public Aug. 1, updating it on Aug. 6, adding the name of an accused priest to it after receiving “additional information.” Its list included 72 names.

“We again emphasize that this is a list of accusations; we did not make assessments of credibility or guilt in creating this list,” a statement from the diocese said.

Not all who are accused of sexual abuse or of covering it up in the report are priests. Some on the lists released by dioceses are deacons, some are seminarians, teachers or other Church workers, and some are no longer alive. Some are accused of being in possession of child pornography, others of inappropriate touching, kissing, soliciting a child for sex, but most are listed as “sexually abusing a child.”

The development comes as the Catholic Church in the United States finds itself grappling with the late July resignation from the College of Cardinals of now-Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick, 88, a former cardinal and former archbishop of Washington, following decades-old allegations that he sexually abused seminarians and at least two minors. He has been removed from public ministry, as of June 20, and is awaiting a Vatican trial.

Bishops ‘shamed’ by ‘sins, omissions’ of priests, bishops leading to abuse

By Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — The U.S. bishops as “are shamed by and sorry for the sins and omissions by Catholic priests and Catholic bishops” that have led to sexual abuse and caused great harm to many, according to a statement Aug. 14 from the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the chairman of its child protection committee.

“We are committed to work in determined ways so that such abuse cannot happen,” said Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, the president, and Bishop Timothy L. Doherty of Lafayette, Ind., chairman of the Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People.

They pledged “to maintain transparency” and provide for “the permanent removal of offenders from ministry and to maintain safe environments for everyone.”

Cardinal DiNardo also said he is hosting a series of meetings during the week to respond to “the broader issue of safe environments within the Church,” and will provide an update when the meetings are concluded.

The prelates’ joint statement was issued in response to the release the same day of a grand jury report based on a months-long investigation by the state’s attorney general into sexual abuse claims in six Pennsylvania dioceses — Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, Allentown, Scranton, Erie and Greensburg.

The report covers a span of over 70 years. Many of the claims go back decades.

“(The report) again illustrates the pain of those who have been victims of the crime of sexual abuse by individual members of our clergy, and by those who shielded abusers and so facilitated an evil that continued for years or even decades,” stated Cardinal DiNardo and Bishop Doherty.

“We are grateful for the courage of the people who aided the investigation by sharing their personal stories of abuse,” they stated. “As a body of bishops, we are shamed by and sorry for the sins and omissions by Catholic priests and Catholic bishops.”

They added, “We are profoundly saddened each time we hear about the harm caused as a result of abuse, at the hands of a clergyman of any rank.”

Cardinal DiNardo and Bishop Doherty stated the USCCB committee headed by the Indiana bishop and the USCCB Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection at the bishops’ conference in Washington “will continue to offer avenues to healing for those who have been abused. We are committed to work in determined ways so that such abuse cannot happen.”

In 2002, the bishops adopted the “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People,” which, they stated, “commits us to respond promptly and compassionately to victims, report the abuse of minors, remove offenders and take ongoing action to prevent abuse.” The charter was revised and updated in 2011 and again in 2018.

“We pledge to maintain transparency and to provide for the permanent removal of offenders from ministry and to maintain safe environments for everyone,” the two prelates stated. “All policies and procedures regarding training and background check requirements are made publicly available by dioceses and eparchies.”

“We pray that all survivors of sexual abuse find healing, comfort and strength in God’s loving presence as the Church pledges to continue to restore trust through accompaniment, communion, accountability and justice.”

The full statement from Cardinal DiNardo and Bishop Doherty can be found at www.bit.ly/2MvN7yc.

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