PHILADELPHIA – The results of a long-term research into the treatment of the sexual abuse claims of the Roman Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania, which victim advocates say that will be the largest and most exhaustive ever undertaken by a U.S. state, may be made public, within a few weeks.
A cheap grand jury spent nearly two years looking for the abuse scandal, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro has said that he plans to address the findings of the commission by the end of June.
WHAT TO EXPECT
The grand jury investigated six of the eight dioceses, which together minister to more than 1.7 million Catholics. The report is expected to reveal details of widespread abuse and efforts to hide and protect priests.
A court ruling last week gave the first real details of an investigation that began in July 2016. Judge Norman Krumenacker rejected an attempt to delay the report of the release, or allow people named in the report to challenge parts of the for its release.
Krumenacker, a Cambria County judge who is overseeing the grand jury, wrote in his opinion that the inquiring authority had heard from dozens of witnesses and reviewed more than a half million pages of internal documents of the diocesan archives. The investigation involved allegations of sexual abuse of children, the loss of the church structures to report it to law enforcement and obstruction of justice by the people “affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church, local officials and leaders of the community,” he said.
The report can be groundbreaking, said Terry McKiernan, the president of BishopAccountability.org. A number of smaller states, including Maine and New Hampshire, each with a diocese that covers the complete state — have issued reports, but does not state the size of Pennsylvania has implemented a full accounting, he said.
“You are going to learn a lot about this crisis and that you never knew,” he said. “Another thing that you’re going to see in a report of this geographic scope is an accounting of the geographical solution, so that within the Pennsylvania dioceses, there is a certain degree of mobility, and priests who have trouble with the in one diocese could be transferred to another within the state. There will hopefully be some accounting.”
Two priests were arrested on sexual abuse charges as a result of the probe, one in Erie and Greensburg dioceses. The prosecutors have said that one of the priests attacked a boy more than 20 times as he served as an acolyte and later that would require the boy to confess, the misuse of him.
The total survey consists of the dioceses of Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh and Scranton.
STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS
It is unclear whether there are other costs submitted as a result of the report, because the Pennsylvania statute of limitations on sexual abuse crimes.
Under the legislation of a member state, a criminal indictment can be submitted up to the time that the person who made the claim of sexual abuse of children is 50 years old. Civil claims can be filed for sexual abuse of children to the person who claims abuse, is 30.
Earlier release of the grand jury reports on the other two Pennsylvania dioceses — Philadelphia, Altoona-Johnstown— called for a two-year window for people who claimed long-ago abuse to pursue civil claims. The efforts that the legislation jammed or blocked.
Rep. Mark Rozzi, that the legislation, said he testified about his own experience of abuse at the hands of a priest in the Allentown diocese. Rozzi said that he is planning to restart a legislation to extend the limitation period. The church has said, the change of the statute of limitations would be unfair to schools and parishes, and can be financially crippling.
PREVIOUS GRAND JURIES
In 2005, the Philadelphia district attorney’s office released a scathing grand jury report that said allegations against more than 100 priests and other clergy had looked the by the panel. The report criticized the internal practices of the move of the priests and the non-reporting of allegations to the enforcement of the law.
In 2011, the bureau released another report, had been assigned a second grand jury to investigate the diocese had changed its practices. The research resulted in a number of priests and members of the clergy being charged with crimes related to the sexual abuse of children, including Monsignor William Lynn, who was charged with endangering children for allegedly moving priests from parish to parish instead of removing them or reporting allegations to the police.
In 2016, the Pennsylvania attorney general’s office released the results of a county investigative grand jury in the Altoona-Johnstown diocese, the position of the least populated. The detailed allegations of abuse by more than 50 priests and others in the church by hundreds of children over decades. The report noted the process in which the bishops were told to keep secret the allegations of abuse by priests.
As soon as the first statement of the grand jury report was released, Rozzi said, the attorney general’s office was flooded with phone calls from people who claimed abuse by priests or teachers at religious schools.
“We wanted them to look the other dioceses at this point. If you think that it is going about here and here, you know. … It happens in other dioceses,” he said.