The long-awaited state grand jury report into sexual abuse in six Pennsylvania dioceses, including Pittsburgh and Greensburg, has finally been released.
The 884-page document, two years in the making, shines a light into the dark corners of these dioceses going back seven decades, exposing the predators and the efforts of their bishops to protect them.
“Today, the most comprehensive report on child sexual abuse within the church ever produced in our country was released,” Attorney General Josh Shapiro said. “Pennsylvanians can finally learn the extent of sexual abuse in these dioceses. For the first time, we can all begin to understand the systematic cover up by church leaders that followed. The abuse scarred every diocese. The cover up was sophisticated. The church protected the institution at all costs.”
The report begins with the following statement:
“We, the members of this grand jury, need you to hear this. We know some of you have head some of it before. There have been other reports about child sex abuse within the Catholic Church. But never on this scale. For many of us, those earlier stories happened someplace else, someplace away. Now we know the truth: it happened everywhere.”
The report cites 301 priests, clergy and lay teachers with credible allegations against them. There are 99 in the Diocese of Pittsburgh alone.
Of those 99, a group of four groomed and violently sexually assaulted young boys, said Shapiro.
“One boy was forced to stand on a bed in a rectory, strip naked and pose as Christ on the cross for the priests. They took photos of their victim, adding them to a collection of child pornography which they produced and shared on church grounds,” Shapiro said.
Shapiro said the priests would mark their victims by giving them gifts.
“To make it easier to target their victims, the priests gave their favored boys gifts – gold crosses to wear as necklaces. The crosses were markings of which boys had been groomed for abuse,” Shapiro said.
Because of an on-going legal battle, more than a dozen names and identifying information have been redacted. But the report shows a consistent pattern of bishops having prior knowledge of the actions of these predatory priests, reassigning them and not alerting law enforcement.
Shapiro said his office is not satisfied with the release of the redacted report. Shapiro said each one of those redactions represents a story of abuse that deserves to be told. He went on to say that he will fight to reveal the names currently redacted in the report.
The report states:
“All victims were brushed aside, in every part of the state, by church leaders who preferred to protect the abusers and their institution above all. The main thing was not to help children, but to avoid scandal.”
“Priests were raping little boys and girls and the men of God who were responsible for them not only did nothing: they hid it all.”
“Diocesan administrators, including the Bishops, had knowledge of this conduct and yet priests were regularly placed in ministry after the Diocese was on notice that a complaint of child sexual abuse had been made. This conduct enabled offenders and endangered the welfare of children.”
In addition, the report says:
Administrators and Bishops “often dissuaded victims from reporting abuse to police, pressured law enforcement to terminate or avoid an investigation, or conducted their own deficient, biased investigations without reporting crimes against children to the proper authorities.”
“Above all else, they protected their institution at all cost,”
The report includes some priests who stood trial and were convicted of sexual assault. In the Diocese of Pittsburgh, they include: Father Robert Wolk of St. Thomas More in Bethel Park; Father Richard Zula of Saints Mary and Ann in Marianna, Washington County, and Father Richard Dorsch, convicted of sexually assaulting a 13-year-old boy in North Park.
Until now, the Pittsburgh Diocese had been considered a leader in those reforms since now Cardinal, then bishop, Donald Wuerl defied the Vatican back in 1993 by refusing to reassign pedophile priest Anthony Cipolla. Wuerl was a leader in formulating policies to protect children, but in the report, his record here also comes under fire.
Cardinal Wuerl responded to the allegations in a statement saying:
“As I have made clear throughout my more than 30 years as a bishop, the sexual abuse of children by some members of the Catholic Church is a terrible tragedy, and the Church can never express enough our deep sorrow and contrition for the abuse, and for the failure to respond promptly and completely. While I understand this Report may be critical of some of my actions, I believe the Report confirms that I acted with diligence, with concern for the victims and to prevent future acts of abuse. I sincerely hope that a just assessment of my actions, past and present, and my continuing commitment to the protection of children will dispel any notions otherwise made by this report.”
James E Windsor, Overpasses News Desk
August 14th, 2018