A two-year grand jury probe into decades of sexual misconduct by over three hundred abusive Catholic priests in six Catholic Dioceses in Pennsylvania has produced some startling and disturbing findings. The lengthy reports details over 1100 child victims and a culture of secrecy in which the reputation of the church was valued by Bishops and Diocese officials above the safety of children. It is now widely-expected that a compensation program will be made available to victims of clergy abuse or the statute of limitations will be repealed to allow these older claims to be brought forth. Any victims of abuse by a priest in Pennsylvania should contact an attorney to determine if they are available for compensation under these programs.
The release of the Grand Jury report is the culmination of a hard-fought court battle pitting victims and their advocates against the church. The Dioceses fought to keep these records confidential and out of the public record. The Court struck a compromise in which the report was released with redactions.
Child advocates and the victims themselves expressed gratitude that the report has been made public, although many still wish to have redacted information revealed to expose certain wrongdoers. Sadly, in almost every case of abuse documented in the grand jury report, it is too late for criminal prosecution. Nevertheless, victims and their advocates hope the transparency of the report will cause reform within the church, a heightened focus on child safety, and ultimately legislative reform to allow victims of older claims to bring civil lawsuits against the church in Pennsylvania that are otherwise barred by the civil statute of limitations.
The lengthy report uncovers incident of sexual abuse by priests dating back to 1947 in six dioceses: Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh and Scranton. In some cases, children were plied with alcohol or other drugs being abused. The descriptions of the abuse itself are both graphic and disturbing. But equally troubling is the recklessness with which abusive priests were transferred from parish to parish or given warnings and allowed to proceed as if nothing had occurred. By way of example, the report notes that Cardinal Donald Wuerl, who served as Bishop of the Diocese of Pittsburgh for eighteen years, would in some cases allow abusive priests to remain in the ministry working with youth in parishes.
If you were a victim or know someone who was victim of sexual abuse by clergy in Pennsylvania, we urge you to report the crime to the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office at 1-888-538-8541 to report it.
Adam Horowitz is a lawyer representing children and adults who were victims of sexual abuse by clergy in Pennsylvania who wish to pursue a civil lawsuit. Our law firm also represents victims of abuse by clergy of all religious denominations in civil lawsuits. If you or someone you know was a victim of sexual abuse or sexual assault at a church or other religious organization, please contact our law firm at (954) 641-2100 or send an email to sexual abuse attorney Adam Horowitz at [email protected]