HARRISBURG, Pa. – A grand jury investigating clergy sexual abuse in six Pennsylvania Roman Catholic dioceses found that the leaders of the church were more interested in preventing scandal than protecting children, in some cases, is discouraging the victims to the police or the press officials of the law enforcement to terminate or prevent, to investigate, according to a court filing.
The grand jury is full, almost 900 pages, the report is expected to be released in the next two weeks.
But a court filing made public Friday, the solving of one of the many legal disputes over the report included excerpts from the grand jury’s findings about the role of the leaders of the church in the clergy abuse scandal.
According to the document, the grand jury concluded that the victims were “brushed aside, in each part of the state, by the leaders of the church who preferred to protect the perpetrators and their institutions above all.”
“The main thing is not to help the children, but to prevent ‘scandal’ grand jury report says.
“A number of diocesan administrators, including the bishops, often discouraged victims from reporting abuse to the police, pressured law enforcement to terminate or prevent an investigation, carried out their own shortness, biased research without reporting crimes against children to the proper authorities,” the report says.
The court of at least the second to reveal some of the grand jury’s broad findings. In a ruling last week, the Supreme Court announced that the grand jury had determined that there are more than 300 “predator priests” in the six dioceses that were examined: Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh and Scranton. Together, they minister to more than 1.7 million Catholics.
The latest revelations came in a file by the prosecutor-general’s office and retired Erie Bishop Donald Trautman. He dropped his challenge to the report in the publication in its current form after the prosecutors agreed some of the broad claims were not directed specifically at him.
Trautman, who headed the Erie Diocese from 1990 to 2012, has a three-page statement that expressed his “disgust” with clergy sexual abuse. He said that he moved to withdraw his case after the close of its pending appeal likely would mean that large parts of the report focused on the Erie would otherwise continue to black out for the foreseeable future, something he is not wanted.
The grand jury report will be released in the first instance, with the names of a number of the accused, a black-out. They have argued that the report violates their constitutional rights to reputation and due process of the law. The court plans to hear oral argument on their claims in September.
Trautman said that he has met or tried to meet with every victim of abuse and helped them to obtain diocese paid mental health care. He said that he also worked with Erie of justice in 2002 to review the Erie Diocese records on abuse allegations, and the prosecutor announced no perpetrators were in a position to endanger children in the community. He said that he is also regularly reported allegations to the police and removed at least 16 priests from active ministry over allegations of child abuse.
“There is no evidence that Bishop Trautman moved priests from parish to parish to ‘cover up’ the abuse allegations or that he failed to take action when an allegation was raised”, says the statement released by his attorney, David Berardinelli. “There is no pattern or practice of the church, a picture, or a priest’s reputation above the protection of children.”
Democratic Attorney General Josh Shapiro, whose office ran the investigation, said Trautman decision paves the way for the victims of the Erie Diocese have their story told without editorial.
“This was the right decision and should serve as a model for others who continue to fight the release of the report,” Shapiro said.
When Shapiro’s office filed charges in May against an Erie priest, the Rev. David Poulson, court documents alleged that a confidential diocesan memo showed Trautman knew from at least 2010, complaints about Poulson in the contact with the children.
Poulson is accused of sexually assaulting at least two boys between 2002 and 2010. The complaint claims one of the boys was molested in various church rectories, while he served as an altar boy and was made to confess the abuse of Poulson later for remission.
Trautman responded at that time by saying that he had tried to contact the young man’s questions about the allegations, but received no response.
He also claimed that he was misled.
“Why would I want a cover-up of Father Poulson’s behavior when I had reported to several district attorneys the conduct of other priests? I know of no sexual abuse by Poulson during my time as bishop of Erie,” he wrote in a statement.
AP writer Claudia Lauer in Philadelphia contributed to this story.