A grand jury report has said that internal documents from six of the eight Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania reveals that for 70 years, more than 300 priests sexually abused over 1000 child victims, some as young as 18 months.
The report said that the church persuaded victims not to report the abuse and law enforcement not to investigate it.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, whose office initiated the investigation, at a press conference on Tuesday, described the alleged assaulters as “predator priests.” Shapiro was surrounded by about 20 of the victims during the press conference.
The report is the largest examination of child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church by a government agency in the United States.
“We believe that the real number of children whose records were lost or who were afraid ever to come forward is 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. For decades. Monsignors, auxiliary bishops, bishops, archbishops, cardinals have mostly been protected; many, including some named in this report, have been promoted,” the report says.
The grand jurors wrote in the report:
“There have been other reports about child sex abuse within the Catholic Church. But never on this scale. For many of us, those earlier stories happened someplace else, someplace away. Now we know the truth: it happened everywhere.
Almost every instance of abuse we found is too old to be prosecuted.
We learned of these abusers directly from their dioceses – which we hope is a sign that the church is finally changing its ways. And there may be more indictments in the future; investigation continues.”
Charges have been filed against two priests – in the Erie and Greensburg dioceses – accused of abusing minors.
Some of the sexual abuse cases, according to CNN, include:
- In the Greensburg diocese, a priest impregnated a 17-year-old, forged a pastor’s signature on a marriage certificate and divorced the girl months later. According to the grand jury, the priest was allowed to stay in ministry by finding a “benevolent bishop.”
- Another priest in Greensburg groomed middle-school students for sex, according to the grand jury, by telling them that Mary had to “bite off the cord” and “lick” Jesus clean after the Nativity.
- In Harrisburg, a priest abused five sisters from the same family and collected samples of their urine, pubic hair and menstrual blood.
- Also in Harrisburg, a priest raped a 7-year-old girl who was in the hospital after her tonsils were removed, according to the report.
- In Pittsburgh, church officials said that a 15-year-old boy “pursued” and “literally seduced” a priest. A church report later acknowledged that the priest had admitted to “sado-masochistic” activities with several boys.
- In the Allentown diocese, a priest admitted sexually molesting a boy and pleaded for help, according to documents, but was left in ministry for several more years.
- Also in Allentown, a priest who had abused several boys, according to the grand jury, was given a recommendation to work at Disney World.
- In Scranton, a priest who later served prison time for abusing children was found to have been HIV-positive for years.
According to New York Times, Pennsylvania’s Catholic bishops on Tuesday, called for prayers for victims and for the church and promised to be more open, adding that the church had, in recent years set up measures to make it safer.
However, several bishops, including Bishop David A. Zubik of Pittsburgh, said there was no cover up.
“There was no cover-up going on. I think that it’s important to be able to state that. We have over the course of the last 30 years, for sure, been transparent about everything that has in fact been transpiring,” Zubik said.