Justice for Pennsylvania’s Catholic Diocese Abuse Victims?
“There have been other reports of abuse in the Catholic Church. But never on this scale.” So said the grand jury investigating the latest scandal involving abuse of children by Catholic priests.
It’s painful to read through the lengthy report released Tuesday, which detailed allegations of sexual abuse committed by hundreds of ‘predator priests’ against thousands of innocent child victims. The grand jury report, consisting of more than 1,000 pages, sheds light on a scandal and cover-up that allegedly took place over decades, beginning in the 1940s.
The scope of the abuse is massive. Allegations were levied against more than 300 clergy members in six dioceses – Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh and Scranton.
For two years, the grand jury heard accounts of rape, child pornography, molestation, abortion and cover-up upon cover-up of these abuses.
The grand jurors concluded that the abuse victims could number in the thousands, including both teens and prepubescents. In the wake of these traumatic abuses, some of the victims fell prey to substance abuse, depression, overdoses and suicide.
Not only did the church leadership know about the injustices committed against children, they kept records and hid the information from the authorities and the public. In many cases, the perpetrators of these acts continued ministerial duties and were simply reassigned to other parishes.
Attorney General Josh Shapiro hasn’t stopped investigating new allegations, which means that there could be many more tragic accounts ahead.
The victims and their families deserve justice for the decades-long exploitation that occurred in the six Pennsylvania dioceses. Due to the corruption of church leaders, many of the abusers have died without ever being held accountable.
The complexities of Pennsylvania’s statute of limitations also presents legal hurdles for some victims. The grand jury noted that most instances of abuse they found are too old to be prosecuted. However, charges have been filed against two priests, and there is hope that some of those young people who suffered at the hands of the ‘predator priests’ will still have legal pathways to justice.
Using the news as a platform for change
While it’s appalling and overwhelming to hear about such a widespread cover-up, it’s important that every adult understand that the grand jury report can serve an important purpose. It gives a platform to those who are fighting against the corruption of church leadership and working to end ongoing abuses against children.
Make no mistake: Abuse didn’t end years ago. Child abuse remains a serious problem in the United States.
For example, according to the American Society for the Positive Care of Children, child abuse countrywide increased about three percent between 2012 and 2016. As in the case of the people allegedly abused by Catholic priests and other members of the clergy, most victims know and trust their abusers. Typically, abusers are in positions of authority, which explains why so many kids (and adults) feel hesitant to speak up.
Yet finding a voice is the first step to stopping the abuse and the ensuing cover-ups that allow them to continue.
If you or someone you love has been the victim of any kind of abuse, please contact Wapner Newman to discuss your legal rights. Many individuals don’t realize that justice may be possible, even if they were abused as kids and are now adults.
Our office will set up a no-obligation initial consultation that is not only free, but completely confidential. Like the brave people who came forward in the recent scandal, you don’t have to carry the burden of silent victimization. Talk to our compassionate, caring team of attorneys today.