Published: Wed, August 15, 2018
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

U.S. report identifies more than 1000 victims of priest abuse

U.S. report identifies more than 1000 victims of priest abuse

Previous grand jury investigations found widespread abuse in the Philadelphia archdiocese and Altoona-Johnstown diocese.

The 900-page, partly redacted report looked at abuse allegations in six of the state's eight dioceses that minister to more than half of its 3.2 million Catholics: Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, Allentown, Scranton, Erie and Greensburg.

In a statement on Monday before the report was published, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the former Bishop of Pittsburgh who now heads the Archdiocese of Washington, said the report "will be a reminder of the grave failings that the church must acknowledge and for which it must seek forgiveness".

More than 300 priests, clergy, and lay teachers with credible allegations are cited in the document, according to KDKA.

According to the grand jury, the cover-up strategies used across the dioceses were so common that the Federal Bureau of Investigation agreed to assign members of its National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime to review a significant amount of the evidence in this case.

"Above all else, (bishops) protected their institution, at all cost", Shapiro said. But the report shows a consistent pattern of bishops having prior knowledge of the actions of predatory priests, reassigning them and not alerting law enforcement. Some were teens; many were prepubescent.

The report, released by a Federal Grand Jury last night, included accounts of groping and masturbation, as well as anal, oral and vaginal rape.

In 1981, Erie Diocese priest Robert F. Bower was found to have collected child pornography, but one of the four diocesan workers who reported it to a priest in church was sacked.

"We learned of these abusers directly from their dioceses - which we hope is a sign that the church is finally changing its ways", the report said.

But officials warned there may be more indictments as the investigation continues.

The grand jury was charged with investigating six dioceses covering 54 counties in the state.

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If predators' conduct became known to the community, the grand jury said, the individuals were not removed to ensure prevention of more victims, but instead transferred to a new location.

Wuerl said he expects the grand jury's findings from the 70 years it explored will be "profoundly disturbing and will open wounds among the faithful that many of us thought to be healing".

Redacted sections later in the report appear to reference Brandt's actions involving several priests accused of misconduct, including one instance where he recommended that an abusive priest be dismissed but also requested to "forgo the penal process ... because a trial would only place an additional burden on the diocese", according to the report. In other cases, it took years to remove priests despite numerous reports of abuse.

Fr. Michael Romero, the report says, took a boy to Cleveland - plied him with alcohol, and sexually abused him. "How could a brother bishop disrespect with such callousness the dignity of young boys, seminarians and priests over decades and no one called him on the carpet?"

"I'm not sure that there's any way to guarantee that there won't ever be a failure in the life of any priest going into the future", he said. "I too share your grief".

The grand jury does not issue any charges; this is just a presentment of findings. "It was addressed to the rapist".

One cleric raped a seven-year-old girl in hospital after she had her tonsils out, the report said.

"We feel certain that many victims never came forward, and that the dioceses did not create written records every single time they heard something about abuse", the report states. Bishop Lawrence Persico, in a letter this week preparing parishioners for the grand jury report, said it was "shocking to read the graphic details" of the abuse claims.

In all, the grand jury report identifies 301 Catholic priests who sexually abused children while serving in active ministry in the church and accuses church leaders of taking steps to cover up the abuse. In the Pittsburgh diocese, the report states that one boy was forced to strip naked and pose as Christ on the Cross for priests while taking photos of him that they added to a child porn collection that was shared on church grounds.

The document comes at a time of renewed scrutiny and fresh scandal at the highest levels of the U.S. Catholic Church.

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