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Priests Are People Too: Victims of Violence Speak Out

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PENNSYLVANIA — August 16, 2018

A high-profile case in Pennsylvania has incriminated hundreds of Catholic priests who sexually children

According to an 887-page report issued by a grand jury on Tuesday, internal documents from six Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania show that more than 300 "predator priests" have been credibly accused of sexually abusing more than 1,000 children.

"We believe that the real number of children whose records were lost, or who were afraid ever to come forward is in the thousands," the grand jury report says.

The investigation is about clergy sexual abuse in six diocese dating back to 1947. The report said, that two other diocese, Philadelphia and Altoona-Johnstown have been also involved the case.

"There have been other reports about child sex abuse within the Catholic Church. But never on this scale," the grand jurors wrote. "For many of us, those earlier stories happened someplace else, someplace away. Now we know the truth: it happened everywhere."

In particular, this includes not only violence against children, but also kissing or inappropriately communicating with a minor. Others were accused of viewing or possessing child pornography.

The list did not say how the diocese handled most of the accusations and did not give the men's current whereabouts, though a few cases that were forwarded to civil authorities were more detailed.

The story shocked the world's 1.2 billion Catholics since the scope of systemic abuse and cover-ups began emerging in 2002.

The Church agreed that the grand jury's inquiry dates to 1947.

Some of the Church representatives said that reported data were false or misleading, also that they were denied due process of law and that its release would impair their reputations.

In addition, on July 27, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ordered the grand jury report to be released by 2 p.m. on August 14 with redactions in sections where litigation was ongoing.

State Attorney General Josh Shapiro had written to the head of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Francis, on July 25, requesting that the Pontiff direct church leaders stop "efforts to silence the survivors."

"A comprehensive investigation by the Office of Attorney General found widespread sexual abuse of children and a systematic cover-up by leaders of the Catholic Church," Shapiro said in his letter. "Last month I planned to release the findings of our investigation. As I prepared to do so, anonymous petitioners implicated in this report went to court to stop me and silence the victims ..."

Shapiro later issued a statement welcoming the state supreme court's decision to allow the report's release.

"Our fear throughout this process has been that the entire grand jury report would be shelved and victims' truth would be silenced," Shapiro said. "Today's order ensures that will not be the case — the redacted report on widespread sexual abuse and cover-up within the Catholic Church will be released."

"I will continue to fight to ensure every single victim is heard and every priest, bishop and church official is held accountable for their abhorrent conduct. No one victim's truth is any less important than another and no one's criminal conduct any less loathsome."

The Church, through Bishop Ronald Gainer of the Harrisburg Diocese, also issued an apology for these actions.

"That conduct has left a legacy of pain and sorrow that is still being felt," he wrote. "I apologize for these actions."

On August 1, the leader of one of the largest Roman Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania released a list identifying 71 priests, deacons and seminarians accused of "substantiated" sexual misconduct over the past seven decades..."

The victims themselves have said that their lives will never be the same.

Robert, 83, who was one of the victims, said that it's difficult for him to show any affection for his wife. The abuse took place when he was about 13 years old, back when Harry S. Truman was President.

Robert shared his story in a video shown at a press conference Tuesday announcing the grand jury's report.

"They targeted me because I was fatherless. Who would have believed me? (That) a priest, in 1948 or '47, would abuse you or do that?" Robert said. "No one ever heard of such a thing because they covered it up.”

"In the decades since, my wife and family suffered every day," Robert added. "My children, I couldn't hold or hug."

Carolyn, 37, another victim who spoke in the video, said she first met her abuser when she was about 18 months old.

"I was in my diaper, and I ran out and ran right to him," Carolyn said.

"And now whenever I hear the word 'God', flashbacks of abuse keep coming back," she said with tears. "The word 'God' makes me think of him. I just feel like my whole life has been a lie. It's very lonely, especially when it's your word against God's."

Among the others cases were:

  • A case in which one priest fondled and masturbated a young teenage boy "under the pretext of showing the victim how to check for cancer."
  • An HIV-positive priest who abused children for years before going to prison.
  • A priest who allegedly abused several boys but was still given a recommendation to work at Disney World.

"As a body of bishops, we are shamed by and sorry for the sins and omissions by Catholic priests and Catholic bishops," said Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Bishop Timothy L. Doherty, chair of the bishops' Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People, in a statement.

In July, Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick from the College of Cardinals, amid allegations of molestation and sexual misconduct. McCarrick, 88, had been a popular and politically influential leader in Washington. He maintained his innocence in June against some claims and has been unavailable to comment on others.

The sexual abuse accusations against McCarrick reveal a "grievous moral failure" within the Catholic Church, the president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops said back in July.

"Our Church is suffering from a crisis of sexual morality," Daniel DiNardo said. "The way forward must involve learning from past sins."

Author: USA Really