More than 300 “predator priests” were found to have committed sexual abuse in Pennsylvania, harming more than 1,000 children, according to a grand jury report released by the state supreme court on Tuesday. Youngest victim was only 18 months old.
The near-900-page report is the result of one of the largest US investigations into sexual abuse in the Catholic church. In painful detail, it showcases how for decades one of the most powerful churches in the world hid the abuse and suffering of children.
“There have been other reports about child sex abuse within the Catholic church,” [the report said](The grand jury said it was able to identify more than 1,000 mostly male child victims, but expected there were thousands more because of lost records and victims who have not come forward). “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 incidents described include a priest who impregnated a minor and helped her get an abortion, then was allowed to stay in the ministry; a priest who confessed to the oral and anal rape of at least 15 boys, including one as young as seven; and a priest who collected the urine, pubic hair and menstrual blood of girls he abused in his home.
The report said “almost every instance of abuse” was too old to be prosecuted, though two priests were identified and charged because of the report, including one who sexually assaulted two children monthly for several years until 2010.
The grand jury said it was able to identify more than 1,000 mostly male child victims, but expected there were thousands more because of lost records and victims who have not come forward.
TL;DR: The numbers are shocking, but this is still only the tip of the iceberg
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced the two-year investigation found a systematic cover-up by senior church officials in both the Keystone State and the Vatican.
“The cover-up was sophisticated. And all the while, shockingly, church leadership kept records of the abuse and the cover-up,” said Shapiro at a press conference in Harrisburg. “These documents, from the dioceses’ own ‘Secret Archives,’ formed the backbone of this investigation.”
The panel concluded that a succession of Catholic bishops and other diocesan leaders tried to shield the church from bad publicity and financial liability by covering up abuse, failing to report accused clergy to police and discouraging victims from going to law enforcement.
Further reading: Pennsylvania sexual abuse report is another setback for Pope Francis.