Wednesday
August 15, 2018

Attorney General details findings of grand jury investigation into child sex abuse by priests

HARRISBURG – Surrounded by survivors of sexual abuse by Catholic priests, Attorney General Josh Shapiro today revealed the comprehensive findings of a statewide investigative grand jury that spent two years uncovering abuse of children by priests, and a systematic cover up spanning decades by senior church leaders in Pennsylvania and the Vatican. The grand jury recommended reforming the criminal and civil statutes of limitations on sexual abuse in Pennsylvania, among other recommendations, and Attorney General Shapiro called on every Catholic bishop to support the reforms.

“Today, the most comprehensive report on child sexual abuse within the church ever produced in our country was released,” 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 investigation captured widespread sexual abuse and institutional cover up across the entire state. Building on investigations of the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese and the Philadelphia Archdiocese by previous grand juries, the 40th Statewide Grand Jury’s investigation covered the other Dioceses of Allentown, Erie, Harrisburg, Greensburg, Pittsburgh and Scranton, giving a complete picture of pervasive abuse in dioceses across Pennsylvania. The grand jury found:

  • 301 Catholic priests identified as predator priests who sexually abused children while serving in active ministry in the church.
  • Detailed accounts of over 1,000 children victimized sexually by predator priests, with the grand jury noting it believed the real number of victims was in the “thousands.”
  • Senior church officials, including bishops, monsignors and others, knew about the abuse committed by priests, but routinely covered it up to avoid scandal, criminal charges against priests, and monetary damages to the dioceses.
  • Priests committed acts of sexual abuse upon children, and were routinely shuttled to other parishes – while parishioners were left unaware of sexual predators in their midst.

The 884-page grand jury report documents scores of sexual assaults and rapes of children by priests, and the institutional cover ups that followed by senior church officials.

In the Diocese of Scranton (59 predator priests named), one priest, Thomas Skotek, raped a young girl, got her pregnant, and arranged an abortion. The Bishop, James Timlin, expressed his feelings in a letter: “This is a very difficult time in your life, and I realize how upset you are. I too share your grief.” The bishop’s letter was not sent to the girl. It was addressed to the rapist.

The grand jury detailed that the cover ups by the church served a key purpose – the longer they covered up abuses, the less chance that law enforcement could prosecute predator priests because the statute of limitations would run out. “As a consequence of the cover up, almost every instance of abuse we found is too old to be prosecuted,” the grand jury found. But not in every instance.

The grand jury recommends changes to Pennsylvania law, including Eliminating the criminal statute of limitations for sexually abusing children. Current law permits victims to come forward until age 50. The grand jury recommends eliminating the criminal statute of limitation entirely for such crimes.

To read the full grand jury report:  www.attorneygeneral.gov/report



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