The 900-plus-page report was made public on Tuesday by Attorney General Josh Shapiro, whose predecessor empaneled the grand jury in 2016 to look into allegations of child molestation and other sexual abuse.
“The main thing was not to help children, but to avoid scandal,” says the report. “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.”
The jury looked into the claims in eight dioceses in Pennsylvania, covering more than half of the state’s 3.2 million Catholics: Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, Allentown, Scranton, Erie and Greensburg. The archdiocese of Philadelphia and the diocese of Altoona-Johnstown were subjects of an earlier report.
Some of those named have died, and the statute of limitations prevents the state from pressing criminal charges against many others.
Ahead of the report’s release, the former bishop of Pittsburgh who now leads the Washington archdiocese told CBS that the church was trying to rid itself of abusive priests and that the report would vindicate the reforms he advocated in 2002 to that effect.
“We’re very, very sorry this happened. And that’s why we’ve taken the steps to see that it doesn’t go on,” Cardinal Donald Wuerl said on Tuesday. He could not confirm that no abuse was happening in the church today, however.
“I’m not sure that there’s any way you can guarantee that there won’t ever be a failure in the life of any priest going into the future,” Wuerl said. “You can’t do more than give your very best to try to eradicate a problem.”
After Wuerl became the archbishop of Washington in 2007, his diocese agreed to pay $1.25 million to settle with 35 survivors of abuse.