HARRISBURG, Pa. – Roman Catholic priests in Pennsylvania used for religious rituals, symbols of faith and the threat of eternity in hell to groom, molest, and rape of children, a grand jury, which the top officer of justice called the ” weaponization of the faith.”
An 884-page report on the state of the grand jury’s investigation, released Tuesday in detail how “predator priests” are the children of religious faith and trust in them as religious leaders to insult and then silence.
A priest tied to a victim with a rope in the confessional in a “praying position,” the grand jury wrote. When the victim refused to perform gender, the angry priest used a 7-inch crucifix to sexually assault him, the report said.
Another victim tells how a priest a cross to defeat him.
At the rectory, according to the report, four of the priests, a boy strip and pose as Jesus on the cross, while they took photos.
“He said that all of them smiled and explained that the photos would be used as a reference for new religious images for the parishes,” wrote the jury. Two of those priests later did jail time for sexually assaulting two altar boys.
Another priest told a boy that he was fondling that it was OK because he was “an instrument of God.”
Priests are also found in the sacrament of penance with the opportunity to commit acts against children, the report said.
The research of six of Pennsylvania’s eight dioceses— Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh and Scranton — is the most comprehensive study of Catholic clergy abuse by a state that, according to the victims lawyers. More than 1,000 children — and possibly many more — were molested since the 1940s, the report said.
The dioceses represent approximately 1.7 million Catholics.
The Archdiocese of Philadelphia, and the Johnstown-Altoona Diocese were not included in the probe, because they are the subject of the previous three scathing grand jury investigations.
Diocese leaders on Tuesday expressed sorrow for the victims revealed, for the first time, a list of priests accused of some kind of sexual misconduct.
“Predators in every diocese weaponized the Catholic faith, and it is used as a tool of their abuse,” Attorney General Josh Shapiro said at a press conference on Tuesday with the unveiling of the grand jury report, which documented allegations against 301 priests more than seven decades.
Only two of the priests have been charged with crimes as a result of the grand jury of the investigation, but a number were prosecuted in the last few years. More than 100 have died, and many others retired.
The leaders of the church say that most of the violations occurred any time in the past, and note that the major reforms were adopted, starting in 2002 to protect children.
Terence McKiernan, the president of the watchdog group BishopAccountability.org said the ritualization of abuse, it is a fundamental part of the way in which children were sexually abused.
“Even when the Catholic rituals and doctrines are not specifically used by the priest, they are in the game,” he said.
Threats of eternal damnation were not unusual, the grand jury found. The priests told the children that they would go to hell, ” and if they told anyone what happened and “no one would believe a lying child rather than a man of the word of God.”
A priest was quoted as telling altar boys they would have to serve naked under their cassocks “because God wanted no man-made clothing to be worn on the skin during the Mass,” wrote the jury.
In a church, a priest told a boy that merry and he had been raped as a 7-year-old, that he had to provide sex to reach the sky. He would then be abused for three years before the priest was transferred.
In a case noted on the day of the grand jury report was made public, a priest washed a boy’s mouth out with holy water after abusing him.
The predator priests used every opportunity they could to molest children, while they had them alone, the study found. Various priests used hypnosis during the sessions for the manipulation of their victims. The help of a priest’s papers in his rectory one way or the other was a session of naked weightlifting. A young boy was abused when he went to collect his report from school.
As a bishop of the Vatican to remove a priest who used physical violence and threats to abuse children, the bishop said the priest “called by the name of God to justify his actions against his victims during the use of their faith and of the priesthood to manipulate it and their silence.” The parishioners were never told why he was removed in 2006.
The grand jury explicitly wrote that the survey was not an attack on the faith, noting many Catholics themselves.
“The people of all faiths and of no faith want their children to be safe,” the grand jurors wrote. “But we were presented with a striking concentration of child sexual abuse cases that originate from the church.”