Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report Reveals Decades of Sexual Abuse by Priests

A grand jury report that had been delayed for months because of pressure from the Catholic Church has finally been ordered released by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. The delay in the release was due to Catholic clergy who mounted legal challenges, because they had been named in the report. That prompted the state’s attorney general to write to Pope Francis to request church leaders stop trying to silence survivors.

Read the report here

This disturbing and comprehensive report shows that more than 300 priests were accused of abusing more than 1,000 victims. The report covered Diocese in the following counties: Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh and Scranton.

The report suggests there were far more children abused during the period, but those records may have been lost or the children simply never came forward. This finding of many more victims is undoubtedly reliable since the vast majority of sexual abuse victims do not report their abuse.

The more than 900 page document suggests that those involved in abusing children were not held responsible for their actions. The Catholic Church placed the protection of the Church and avoidance of scandal over the well-being of children. The church hierarchy not just protected the abusers, but in some cases even promoted them. The church worked to conceal the truth about the abuses, which dated back to 1947 . Other dioceses, such as the Rockville Centre Diocese in New York, have already been subjected to grand jury reports that found similar problematic information.

It is, perhaps, the scale of this report that is so shocking to many. In a news conference, the Pennsylvania Attorney General called it one of the most comprehensive reports on sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. While nearly every instance of abuse was too old to be prosecuted, charges were filed in two cases, and the investigation has prompted the church to make some big changes. Most of the abuses reported occurred before 2002, when the Dallas Charter was adopted to help change the way abuse was handled in the church.

The report details abuses against boys and girls alike. Some were given alcohol along with the abuse, and many were molested, raped, and subjected to other horrific abuses. The victims at the news conference said this was not a vendetta, but a hope for accountability within the church.