The big story today, via The New York Times:
Bishops and other leaders of the Roman Catholic Church in Pennsylvania covered up child sexual abuse by hundreds of priests over a period of 70 years, persuading victims not to report the abuse and police officers not to investigate it, according to a report issued by a grand jury on Tuesday.
The report, which says there were more than 1,000 identifiable victims and covered six of the state’s eight Catholic dioceses, is the broadest examination yet by a government agency in the United States of child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. There have been ten previous reports by grand juries and attorneys general in the United States, according to the research and advocacy group BishopAccountability.org, but those examined single dioceses or counties.
The report catalogs horrific instances of abuse, including a priest who raped a young girl in the hospital after she had her tonsils out, and another priest who was allowed to stay in ministry after impregnating a 17-year-old girl, faking a marriage certificate and then divorcing the girl.
“Despite some institutional reform, individual leaders of the church have largely escaped public accountability,” the grand jury wrote. “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. For decades.”
The USCCB response:
“The report of the Pennsylvania grand jury again illustrates the pain of those who have been victims of the crime of sexual abuse by individual members of our clergy, and by those who shielded abusers and so facilitated an evil that continued for years or even decades. We are grateful for the courage of the people who aided the investigation by sharing their personal stories of abuse. As a body of bishops, we are shamed by and sorry for the sins and omissions by Catholic priests and Catholic bishops.
We are profoundly saddened each time we hear about the harm caused as a result of abuse, at the hands of a clergyman of any rank. The USCCB Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People and the office of the Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection will continue to offer avenues to healing for those who have been abused. We are committed to work in determined ways so that such abuse cannot happen.
The Pennsylvania grand jury report covers a span of more than 70 years. In 2002 the U.S. Catholic bishops adopted the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, which commits us to respond promptly and compassionately to victims, report the abuse of minors, remove offenders and take ongoing action to prevent abuse. This Charter was revised and updated in 2011 and again in 2018. We pledge to maintain transparency and to provide for the permanent removal of offenders from ministry and to maintain safe environments for everyone. All policies and procedures regarding training and background check requirements are made publicly available by dioceses and eparchies.
We pray that all survivors of sexual abuse find healing, comfort and strength in God’s loving presence as the Church pledges to continue to restore trust through accompaniment, communion, accountability and justice.”