It’s been one week since the release of a bombshell grand jury report that details cases of child sex abuse by priests in Pennsylvania dioceses. The report’s release has set ablaze a fire of appalled and disgusted reactions, fierce debate, and outraged calls to action. Amid the chaos, it can be hard to follow along and get the full picture.
On August 14th, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro held a press conference in which a grand jury released a heavily redacted 1,356-page report following a two-year long investigation. Shapiro said his office will be returning to court in the next month to have the full document released.
The document spans the 1940s to present, and details the cases of over 1,000 victims of child sex abuse by 301 priests in six of Pennsylvania’s eight dioceses: Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, and Scranton. Shapiro stated that the grand jury believes the current figure is low, and that the number of victims could be in the thousands.
“We don’t think we got them all. We feel certain that many victims never came forward, and that the dioceses did not create written records every single time they heard something about abuse.”
Victim advocates say the investigation by the grand jury is the most exhaustive conducted by any state to date given its wide scope. At the news conference, Attorney General Shapiro stated:
“I’m here, finally, to announce the results of a two-year grand jury investigation into the abuse allegations and the systematic cover-up by officials in Pennsylvania and the Vatican.”
According to Shapiro, the “troves of documents” came from the church’s own archives that describe decades of abuse and the subsequent effort to cover it up by church officials. Shapiro noted the report included instances where church leadership often “lied,” and saved their compassion for suspected predators rather than victims of abuse.
The introduction of the report summarizes the vile and satanic abuses suffered by the victims of priests that were protected by church leaders who covered up their wrongdoings:
“Most of the victims were boys; but there were girls too. Some were teens; many were prepubescent. Some were manipulated with alcohol or pornography. Some were made to masturbate their assailants, or were groped by them. Some were raped orally, some vaginally, some anally. 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.”
The cover up’s were effective, as the statute of limitations has now passed for many victims mentioned in the report to potentially seek legal action. Shapiro called it “manipulation of Pennsylvania’s weak laws governing child sexual abuse,” with many of the church leadership remaining in place or given promotions thereby “putting the institution before the safety of victims.”
The grand jury made four calls to reform the law regarding abuse cases and their handling:
• Elimination of the criminal statute of limitations for child sexual abuse
• Create a two year “civil window” for victims who couldn’t file previously
• Clarify penalties for continually failing to report child abuse
• Prohibit “non-disclosure agreements” regarding cooperation with law enforcement
You can read the full report released the grand jury here. Below you can watch the full video of Attorney General Shapiro discussing the report, followed by statements from three victims: