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New report details child sex abuse by more than 300 Catholic clergy in Pennsylvania, but most will go unpunished

The report reveals more than 1,000 child victims, and a systematic cover-up that lasted over seven decades.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court released a 1,356-page grand jury report into sexual abuse in the Catholic Church on Tuesday, listing more than 300 accused clergy members, more than 1,000 child victims, and a systematic cover-up that lasted over seven decades.

State Attorney General Josh Shapiro said at a news conference that this release is the culmination of an 18-month investigation into Pennsylvania’s eight dioceses, and overlaps into two other dioceses after abuse and cover-ups were revealed.


However, because of the cover-up, almost every single instance of abuse is too old to be prosecuted, according to the report.

“But that is not to say there are no more predators. This grand jury has issued presentments against a priest in the Greensburg diocese and a priest in the Erie Diocese, who has been sexually assaulting children within the last decade,” the report read, adding that they learned of those abusers directly from their own dioceses. “But we are not satisfied by the few charges we can bring, which represent only a tiny percentage of all the child abusers we saw. We are sick over all the crimes that will go unpunished and uncompensated. This report is our only recourse.”

The report goes on to detail the thousands of incidents in which boys and girls under 18, many of whom were prepubescent, were manipulated, sometimes with alcohol or pornography. Many of the reports defy belief, including:

  • One priest admitted, “Please help me. I sexually molested a boy.” According to the report, “the diocese concluded that ‘the experience will not necessarily be a horrendous trauma’ for the victim, and that the family should just be given ‘an opportunity to ventilate.’ The priest was left in unrestricted ministry for several more years, despite his own confession.”

  • Another priest, who was grooming his middle school students for oral sex, according to the report, taught the children “how Mary had to ‘bite off the cord’ and ‘lick’ Jesus clean after he was born." It took another 15 years, and numerous additional reports of abuse, before the diocese finally removed the priest from ministry.”

  • A priest abused five sisters in a single family, according to the report, and collect samples of their “urine, pubic hair, and menstrual blood.” His house was eventually searched and his collection was found. Still, though, the abuser was allowed to stay.

  • Church officials dismissed another incident of abuse because, according to the report, “the 15 -year-old had ‘pursued’ the priest and ‘literally seduced’ him into a relationship.” The priest was arrested, and in an evaluation the church submitted to the court, they acknowledged that priest admitted to “‘sado-masochistic” activities with several boys - but the sado-masochism was only ‘mild,’ and at least the priest was not ‘psychotic,’” according to the report.

“We subpoenaed, and reviewed, half a million pages of internal diocesan documents,” the report stated. “They contained credible allegations against over three hundred predator priests. Over one thousand child victims were identifiable, from the church’s own records. We believe that the real number — of children whose records were lost, or who were afraid ever to come forward — is in the thousands.”

Read the full report here:

Cover image: The Most Rev. Ronald Gainer, the Roman Catholic bishop of the diocese of Harrisburg, Pa., discusses child sexual abuse by clergy and a decision by the diocese to remove names of bishops going back to the 1940s after concluding they did not respond adequately to abuse allegations, during a Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2018, news conference in Harrisburg, Pa.(AP Photo/Mark Scolforo)