Shocking details of children’s sexual abuse by priests
Roman Catholic priests sexually abused thousands of children over a 70-year period and silenced victims through “the weaponization of faith”.
A 884-page report revealed that there has been a systematic cover-up campaign by their bishops.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said that after a two-year investigation contained graphic examples of children being groomed and sexually abuse by priests.
It was largely based on documents from secret archives kept by the dioceses, including handwritten confessions by priests, he said.
“It was child sexual abuse, including rape, committed by grown men – priests – against children,” Shapiro told a press conference.
Representatives of the six Pennsylvania dioceses included in the report could not be reached for comment.
The attorney general said it was the most comprehensive report on sex abuse by priests from the Catholic Church in American history, nearly two decades after an expose of widespread abuse and cover-up in Boston that rocked the Roman Catholic church.
Several of the dioceses issued statements apologizing to victims and saying they were taking steps to ensure any criminal behavior was stopped.
“The grand jury has challenged us as a Catholic diocese to put victims first and to continue to improve ways to protect children and youth,” Bishop Lawrence Persico of the Erie Diocese said in a statement.
As accusers wept behind him, Shapiro described alleged abuse by priests in six of the State’s eight dioceses, including a group of Pittsburgh clergymen accused of ordering an altar boy to strip naked and pose as Christ on the cross while they photographed him.
“The pattern was abuse, deny and cover up,” Shapiro said, adding that church officials sought to keep abuse allegations quiet long enough so they could no longer be prosecuted under Pennsylvania’s statute of limitations.
“Priests were raping little boys and girls,” Shapiro said. “They hid it all for decades.”
The report cited 301 priests, some of whom have died. Only two of the priests are still subject to prosecution.
A few of the clergymen accused in the report succeeded in having their names redacted, and Shapiro said he would argue at a Sept. 26 court hearing for making all the names public.
He said the grand jury identified about a thousand victims, but believed there may be many more.
Shapiro said that one priest had molested five sisters in one family, he said. The diocese settled with the family after requiring a confidentiality agreement, he said.
The attorney general said that Catholic bishops covered up child sexual abuse by priests and reassigned them repeatedly to different parishes. “They allowed priests to remain active for as long as 40 years,” he said.