Priests Accused Of Abusing Thousands Of Children In Pennsylvania

The report is thought to be the most comprehensive to date into abuse in the US church but while prosecutors have filed charges against two priests the vast majority of crimes happened too long ago to prosecute under current laws

More than 300 Pennsylvania priests committed sexual abuse over decades

Shapiro vowed to go to court to get the redactions in the report removed. "And all the while, shockingly, church leadership kept records of the abuse and the cover-up", Shapiro said at a news conference.

"The most important thing I want to do at this moment is to express my sorrow to the victims of sexual abuse that occurred within the Diocese of Erie", Persico wrote. "I don't feel very comfortable with Wuerl voting for the next pope if that opportunity arises in the next few years", said Terry McKiernan, founder and president of the organization Bishop Accountability. The Pennsylvania Attorney General's investigation says it was spread throughout six diocese around the state. Its findings echoed many earlier church investigations around the country, describing widespread sexual abuse and church officials' concealment of it.

"The report will be a reminder of grave failings that the Church must acknowledge and for which it must seek forgiveness", he wrote.

More than a dozen priests appeared before the grand jury and "most of them admitted what they had done", the report said.

The abuse ranged from groping to rape.

In one case, a priest in Harrisburg abused five sisters from the same family. Another priest forced a 9-year-old boy into having oral sex, then rinsed out the boy's mouth with holy water. "For decades", the 900-page report said.

The conspiracy of silence extended beyond church grounds.

But although the probe brought charges against two clergymen, including one who has since pleaded guilty - other priests identified as perpetrators are either dead or will avoid arrest because their alleged crimes are too old to prosecute under state law.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, at podium, speaking during a news conference in Harrisburg.

That is probably not surprising, as Luzerne remains the most populous of the diocese's 11 counties, many of which are rural, rugged and sparsely populated.

Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington, figures prominently in the report, because he led the Pittsburgh diocese as its bishop from 1988 to 2006.

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More than 300 Catholic priests in six Pennsylvania dioceses are accused of either sexually abusing children or helping others cover up abuse.

The report did not include the archdiocese of Philadelphia nor the diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, both of which were the subject of earlier grand jury reports.

"Because of the report, the public will begin to understand your pain in a new way", he said, pledging that the Diocese of Erie would not "shroud abusers in secrecy no matter who they are and how long ago it took place".

"Instead of healing, victims were shamed".

Bishop Ronald Gainer announced the findings of the diocese own internal investigation into child sex abuse. The local district attorney halted his investigations into the alleged abuse in 1964 "in order to prevent unfavorable publicity", admitting he did so because "he was desirous of support from the Diocese for his political career".

And in 1998, when doctors said that William P. O'Malley III hadn't had sexual contact with a minor since 1982 and recommended that he be returned to ministry, Wuerl gave him a church job. He sent a letter to Washington priests defending his efforts on behalf of victims and claiming a "zero tolerance policy" for clergy abuse, the Associated Press reported. The number of victims is estimated at 1,000 at least, but it may actually be significantly higher.

It is thought to be the single most comprehensive report to date into abuse in the United States church, since The Boston Globe first exposed pedophile priests in MA in 2002.

Many victims claimed they were drugged or otherwise manipulated.

About 1,000 child victims were identifiable from the church's records, but investigators believe the real number is much greater. In the Pennsylvania state legislature, there is a bill on the table that could eliminate the statute of limitations for one year, so any victim could file a civil lawsuit regardless of their age.

Nick Cafardi, former dean of Pittsburgh's Duquesne University School of Law, said that after reading the report, he believed Wuerl was ahead of other bishops at his time. "We need to put our foot down on the gas here and hold these bishops accountable".

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