Published: Wed, August 15, 2018
Worldwide | By Stella Potter

Sexual assault survivors react to report alleging abuse by 301 'predator priests'

Sexual assault survivors react to report alleging abuse by 301 'predator priests'

In Pennsylvania, a grand jury report released Tuesday has revealed how more than 300 Catholic priests sexually abused 1,000 children and possibly thousands more over seven decades and that the church leadership covered up the abuse.

The actual number of child victims is believed to be in the thousands, the jurors wrote, but there is no information because they either didn't come forward or the dioceses didn't create written records for all times they heard of the abuse.

State Attorney General Josh Shapiro said at a news conference on Tuesday that his office is working to remove those redactions.

The Pennsylvania report covers 70 years of abuse of children by Roman Catholic priests and how the church sought to cover-up the accusations.

The report that's close to 900 pages long names more than 300 priests across six of the eight Catholic dioceses in the state.

One victim in Pittsburgh was forced to pose naked as Christ on the cross while priests photographed him with a Polaroid camera.

The grand jury said one priest abused five sisters from the same family and collected samples of their urine, pubic hair and menstrual blood that were later collected from his home during a search.

The Erie Diocese last week released a list of more than 60 people "credibly accused" of actions that the diocese said disqualified them from working with children.

Abuse victi Robert Mizic, 47, cried as he watched a press conerence on the grand jury report into widespread abuse of children by Catholic priests.

Specific instances of alleged abuse are detailed in the report, including the case of one priest who allegedly impregnated a 17-year-old girl, forged a signature on a marriage certificate from his head pastor, and then divorced the girl several months later.

Shapiro said at a news conference that he was bound by the state's statutes of limitation.

Wuerl, one of the highest-profile cardinals in the United States, released a statement Tuesday that said he had 'acted with diligence, with concern for the victims and to prevent future acts of abuse'.

Only two of the priests are still subject to prosecution.

"The main thing was not to help children but to avoid 'scandal, '" says a biting sentence about the behavior of church leaders and officials in the report, detailing a months-long investigation of clergy sex abuse claims in the dioceses of Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, Allentown, Scranton, Greensburg and Erie.

Sexual abuse "scarred every diocese", said Shapiro, and church leaders often would protect abusers at the expense of their victims. Coming in the wake of a series of revelations about former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the 884-page report places the issue of clergy sex abuse back on the national stage in a way it has not been since the 2002 crisis that began in Boston, and spread nationwide.

However, more than two dozen clergy named in the report were able to block its publication on the grounds that it might violate their rights to due process and destroy their reputations.

A number of priests cited in the report were found by church and civil authorities in possession of child pornography as well.

The grand jury's report must spur legislators to change the law, and bishops should back that effort, Rozzi said. The findings were made public by Attorney General Josh Shapiro.

While the charges were later dismissed because the statute of limitations had expired, the grand jury report shows, "not for lack of merit".

Several dioceses made a decision to strip the accused of their anonymity and released the names of clergy members who were accused of sexual misconduct. In other cases, it took years to remove priests despite numerous reports of abuse.

A couple of dioceses chose to strip the accused of their anonymity ahead of the report and released the names of clergy members who were accused of sexual misconduct. Vast progress has been made in dealing with sexual abuse of prepubescent children, but the next phase is looking at the bishops and their responsibility and accountability.

The report comes amid renewed scrutiny of child sex abuse allegations within the Catholic Church.

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