Unholy Acts of “Holy” Men: More Than 300 Clergymen Accused of Molesting Over 1000 Children
USA — August 16, 2018
Criminals are expected to commit crimes, but when priests whom we trust and revere commit crimes as abominable as rape and molestation, it shows something is seriously wrong with our religious institutions. The release of a landmark grand jury report showing that more than 1,000 children were molested and raped by hundreds of Roman Catholic priests in the US state of Pennsylvania and senior church officials took steps to cover it up, is more than enough to shake the belief of even the most ardent believers.
The near-900-page report is the result of one of the largest US investigations into sexual abuse in the Catholic church. In painful detail, it describes how for decades one of the most powerful churches in the world committed the abuse and left no stone unturned in hiding the sufferings of the children.
The abuse ranged from groping and masturbation to anal, oral and vaginal rape. While most of the abuse survivors were boys, girls were abused too, the report highlighted.
"Church officials routinely and purposefully described the abuse as horseplay and wrestling... It was none of those things. It was child sexual abuse, including rape," Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said.
He also narrated an incident where one priest molested five sisters in one family. The diocese settled the matter with the family after forcing them to sign a confidentiality agreement.
The incidents described in the report include a priest who impregnated a minor and forced her to get an abortion, and yet was allowed to stay in the ministry; a priest who confessed to the oral and anal rape of at least 15 boys, including minors as young as seven; and a priest who collected the urine, pubic hair and menstrual blood of girls he abused in his home.
"Children were taught that this abuse was not only normal but that it was holy."
The report faulted Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the former longtime bishop of Pittsburgh who now leads the Washington archdiocese, for what it said was his part in the concealment of clergy sexual abuse. Wuerl, one of the highest-profile cardinals in the United States, released a statement on Tuesday saying that he had "acted with diligence, with concern for the victims and to prevent future acts of abuse".
"The cover-up was sophisticated. And all the while, shockingly, church leadership kept records of the abuse and the cover-up. These documents, from the dioceses' own 'Secret Archives,' formed the backbone of this investigation," said Shapiro.
Twenty-three grand jurors, including practicing Catholics worked for two years to compile the report. The report is based on internal documents surrendered by the six dioceses it investigated and the testimony from victims. More than a dozen priests appeared before the grand jury and “most of them admitted what they had done”, the report said.
The grand jury also consulted the FBI, which helped in the analysis of cover-ups. In its findings, the grand jury described the cover-ups as “a playbook for concealing the truth”.
Despite the grand jury’s hard work, it won't result in justice for the vast majority of those who say they were molested by priests as children. While the investigation produced charges against two clergymen the other priests identified as perpetrators are either dead or will manage to avoid arrest because their alleged crimes are too old to prosecute under state law.
In addition to providing a detailed report showing the abuse by priests and how the church used its influence and money to cover up such cases, the grand jury also issued recommendations for how present laws should now change. Their recommendations include eliminating criminal statute of limitations for sexually abusing children and expanding the pool of people who can make civil claims against the church.
“Because the priests had largely escaped public accountability and in some cases were promoted,” the report said: “Until that changes, we think it is too early to close the book on the Catholic church sex scandal.”