Sunday, 18 November, 2018

Archbishop defends himself ahead of child sex abuse report

More than 300 Pennsylvania priests committed sexual abuse over decades Pa. report on clergy sexual abuse is critical of Cardinal Wuerl
Leonard Rios | 15 August, 2018, 21:51

The actual number of child victims is believed to be in the thousands, the jurors wrote, but there is no information because they either didn't come forward or the dioceses didn't create written records for all times they heard of the abuse.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro called on the dioceses of Pennsylvania to support four proposals that could help sex abuse victims find justice.

More than 300 Catholic priests across Pennsylvania sexually abused children over seven decades, protected by a hierarchy of church leaders who covered it up, according to a sweeping grand jury report released on Tuesday.

Terry McKiernan of BishopAccountability.org said the report did a good job of highlighting the two crimes of church sex abuse scandals: the abuse of a child and the cover up by church officials that allows the abuse to continue. The report said more than 300 clergy committed the abuse over a period of decades. One boy was forced to stand naked on a bed in the rectory, posing as Christ on the cross while these priests took photos of him.

One priest named in the report pleaded guilty last month to charges that he sexually abused a 10-year-old boy more than 20 years ago.

Some of the dioceses involved said they would release the names of those facing "credible allegations" in the report when the document was made public and some of them did so immediately.

One priest admitted to molesting boys, but denied reports of abusing girls, the grand jury said, because "they don't have a penis".

Wuerl replaced McCarrick as Washington's archbishop after McCarrick retired in 2006.

Such attitudes enabled church authorities in some cases to ignore abuse allegations if they were otherwise satisfied with a priest's behavior, or perhaps to transfer an accused priest to another parish rather than turn him over to law enforcement.

It follows a almost two-year-long investigation by Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro.

'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'. 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.

By contrast, some of the alleged abuse by other priests took place much more recently - as with Father Philip A. Altavilla, who was arrested in 2014 on allegations of indecent assault and related charges against a teen in the late 1990s.

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Speaking at a news conference Tuesday, several of them detailed heart-wrenching accounts of alleged sexual abuse against 301 priests across six of the state's eight dioceses.

That report led to a second grand jury investigation in 2011 to determine whether the Philadelphia diocese had updated its practices and stopped protecting accused clergymen.

Earlier this month, ahead of the release of the attorney general's report, the Diocese of Harrisburg published a list of 71 people connected with the diocese accused of sexual abuse and launched a new website to combat the issue.

Faced with a growing number of cases worldwide and repeated criticism over the Church's response, Pope Francis in 2013 brought in new legislation covering child sex abuse and pornography and sentences of up to 12 years for priests.

Shapiro said his office is not satisfied with the release of the redacted report.

However, more than two dozen clergy named in the report were able to block its publication on the grounds that it might violate their rights to due process and destroy their reputations. The findings were made public by Attorney General Josh Shapiro.

The identities of those clergy members remain under court seal.

For state Rep. Mark Rozzi, a Muhlenberg Township Democrat who as a child he was a victim of a priest's abuse, the day was "a huge victory for us".

Some bishops from the six dioceses named responded nearly immediately after the release.

The report is now the subject of a legal battle over the redactions of names of those involved in the abuse, or covering it up afterwards.

The report comes at a time of fresh scandal at the highest levels of the US Catholic Church.

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