Pennsylvania Priest Abuse Lawsuit
In light of an horrific Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report published in the summer of 2018, Matthews & Associates is investigating claims that Pennsylvania priests molested more than 1,000 kids, perhaps thousands, according to the grand jury. The report triggered a 2019 change in Pennsylvania law, which now gives Pennsylvanians more time to file a sex abuse lawsuit. If you or someone you love is a survivor of Pennsylvania priest or clergy abuse, contact us for a free legal consultation regarding a potential lawsuit against the church and your abuser(s).
300 Pennsylvania priests molested more than 1,000 Kids
(August 15, 2018) Pennsylvania priests molested more than 1,000 kids in the last seven decades. That was the conclusion of a grand jury report released yesterday. The group was assigned to investigate the claims of priest-abuse victims. The grand jury found that hundreds of Pennsylvania’s Roman Catholic priests molested more than 1,000 children, and perhaps many, many more. The abuse took place from the 1940s to the present. And just as disturbingly, the jury found that senior church officials, including the current archbishop of Washington, D.C., systematically covered up the abuse.
The grand jury heard testimony from dozens of witnesses and reviewed half a million pages of internal diocesan documents. The jury wrote of the documents they examined:
The church reportedly “lost” many of its clergy abuse report records.
“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,” Attorney General Josh Shapiro said at a news conference in Harrisburg, Penn.
300 Priests abused Children
It’s difficult to believe, but the jury report put the number of abusive clergy at more than 300. Sadly, in nearly all the cases, the statute of limitations has run out, which means it’s too late for criminal charges to be filed. (But new laws could possibly change that scenario.) More than 100 of the accused priests are dead. Many others are retired, dismissed from the priesthood, or they’ve been put on leave.
The grand jury said it was “sick over all the crimes that will go unpunished and uncompensated.”
Authorities evaluated each suspect and were able to charge just two priests. One was a priest who has since pleaded guilty, though Mr. Shapiro said the investigation is ongoing.
Mr. Shapiro said that church officials “routinely and purposefully described the abuse as horseplay and wrestling” and “inappropriate conduct.” It was none of those things, he said. “It was child sexual abuse, including rape.”
The grand jury accused Cardinal Donald Wuerl, who now leads the Washington D.C. archdiocese, of helping to protect abusive priests while he was the Pittsburgh diocese’s bishop, from 1988 to 2006.
Wuerl defended himself in a statement: “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.”
17,000 Clergy Abuse Victims Nationwide
The Pennsylvania grand jury’s work was the most extensive investigation of Catholic clergy abuse by any state. Its findings echoed many earlier church investigations around the U.S. It described widespread sexual abuse and church officials’ duplicitous concealment of that abuse. U.S. bishops have acknowledged more than 17,000 people nationwide have reported being molested by priests and others in the church.
The Pennsylvania victims were mostly boys, but girls were also abused, said the report.
Horrific Abuse Detailed
The unspeakable clergy abuse ranged from groping and masturbation to anal, oral, and vaginal rape. One boy said he was forced to say nfession to the priest who sexually abused him. One 9-year-old boy was forced to perform oral sex and then had his mouth washed out with holy water. Another boy was made to pose naked in a macabre imitation of the crucifixion, and he was then photographed by a group of priests who Mr. Shapiro said produced and shared child pornography on church grounds.
Systemic Abuse and Coverup
The grand jury concluded that instead of moving to protect the victims, a succession of Catholic bishops and other diocesan leaders moved to shield the perpetrators and the church from bad publicity and financial penalties in civil court. They failed to report accused clergy to police. Instead, they sent abusive priests to so-called “treatment facilities,” where they were “laundered” and then released on other parishes. The church elders “permitted hundreds of known offenders to return to ministry,” said the report.
Mr. Shapiro said the investigation confirmed a “systematic cover-up by senior church officials in Pennsylvania and at the Vatican,” though the report provided little detail of the Vatican’s role. It only described a series of confidential reports that bishops made to the Vatican about abusive priests.
A Conspiracy of Silence
The conspiracy of silence from the Vatican on down extended beyond church grounds. The grand jury said it found cases where police or prosecutors learned of clergy sex abuse allegations, but failed to investigate, granting deference to the wishes of church officials.
Catholic Church destabilized by Pedophile Priests
The grand jury’s report comes amid rancid scandal already occurring at the highest levels of the U.S. Catholic Church. Pope Francis stripped 88-year-old Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of his title. The Pope ordered McCarrick to a lifetime of prayer and penance amid allegations that McCarrick had for years sexually abused boys and had sexual misconduct with adult seminarians.
Wuerl has come under harsh criticism over his response to the McCarrick scandal. Some question his claims of surprise and ignorance over allegations McCarrick molested and harassed young seminarians. Wuerl replaced McCarrick as Washington’s archbishop after McCarrick retired in 2006.
The Pennsylvania grand jury, convened by the state attorney general’s office in 2016, heard from dozens of witnesses and reviewed more than a half-million pages of internal documents from the Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh and Scranton dioceses.
The Pittsburgh diocese said a few priests are still in ministry because the diocese determined allegations against them were unsubstantiated.
Statutes of Limitations Needs Change
Tim Lennon, the president of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, urged Pennsylvania lawmakers to lift civil and criminal statutes of limitations for child sex crimes. He said they should provide victims who no longer meet the age requirements in state law with a new window to file civil lawsuits.
Priests Move to Stop Disclosure
Some current and former clergy named in the report tried to prevent its release, arguing in court that it violated their constitutional rights. The Pennsylvania state Supreme Court said the public had a right to see it, but ruled the names of priests and others who objected to the findings would be blacked out pending a September hearing on their claims.
Twenty of the grand jurors said Tuesday that they objected to “any attempts to censor, alter, redact or amend” their report.
Several dioceses decided to strip the accused of their anonymity and released the names of clergy members who were accused of sexual misconduct.
Pennsylvania Priest Abuse Lawsuit
Matthews & Associates Law Firm is investigating clergy sex abuse crimes and other types of abuse by clergy. The firm has previously represented dozens of people who alleged that they were sexually abused at the hands of their own clergy. Contact us for a free confidential case consultation regarding a potential clergy abuse lawsuit if you were sexually abused by a priest or other member of the clergy.
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