The much-anticipated grand jury report on clerical abuse in six Pennsylvania dioceses was released August 14, 2018.
The document – more than 1,350 pages long – cites credible accusations of abuse against more than 300 priests, with more than 1,000 victims involved. The study took two years and was overseen by Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro.
“The cover-up was sophisticated. And all the while, shockingly, church leadership kept records of the abuse and the cover-up. These documents, from the dioceses’ own ‘Secret Archives,’ formed the backbone of this investigation,” he said at a news conference in Harrisburg, according to Associated Press.
“Most of the victims were boys, but there were girls too. Some were teens; many were prepubescent. Some were manipulated with alcohol or pornography,” the report said. “… 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.”
The report continued: “We know that the bulk of the discussion in this report concerns events that occurred before the early 2000’s. That is simply because the bulk of the material we received from the dioceses concerned those events. The information in these documents was previously kept hidden from those whom it most affected. It is exposed now only because of the existence of this grand jury.
“That historical record is highly important, for present and future purposes. The thousands of victims of clergy child sex abuse in Pennsylvania deserve an accounting, to use as best they can to try to move on with their lives. And the citizens of Pennsylvania deserve an accounting as well, to help determine how best to make appropriate improvements in the law.
“At the same time, we recognize that much has changed over the last fifteen years. We agreed to hear from each of the six dioceses we investigated so that they could inform us about recent developments in their jurisdictions. In response, five of the bishops submitted statements to us, and the sixth, the bishop of Erie, appeared before us in person. His testimony impressed us as forthright and heartfelt. It appears that the church is now advising law enforcement of abuse reports more promptly. Internal review processes have been established. Victims are no longer
quite so invisible.”
The grand jury made the following specific recommendations:
- Eliminate the criminal statute of limitations for sexually abusing children.
- Create a two-year “civil window” for child sex abuse victims who couldn’t file lawsuits
- Clarify the penalties for a continuing failure to report child abuse.
- Prohibit “non -disclosure” agreements regarding cooperation with law enforcement.