Report Reveals Widespread Sexual Abuse By Over 300 Priests In Pennsylvania A long-awaited grand jury investigation into clergy sexual abuse details decades of misconduct and cover-up in six of the state's eight Roman Catholic dioceses.
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Report Reveals Widespread Sexual Abuse By Over 300 Priests In Pennsylvania

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Report Reveals Widespread Sexual Abuse By Over 300 Priests In Pennsylvania

Report Reveals Widespread Sexual Abuse By Over 300 Priests In Pennsylvania

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/636855561/638629479" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

We begin this hour with a report of widespread clergy sex abuse in Catholic churches throughout Pennsylvania. A grand jury investigation released today gives details on 301 priests who allegedly abused more than 1,000 children. Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro says the abuse and the cover-up went all the way up to the Vatican.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JOSH SHAPIRO: There have been other reports about child sex abuse within the Catholic Church but never on this scale. For many of us, those earlier stories happened someplace else. Now we know the truth. It happened everywhere.

CORNISH: For more on this investigation, we turn to Katie Meyer of member station WITF. And a warning - we will be discussing some disturbing details. Katie joins us from Harrisburg. And, Katie, what more can you tell us just about the scope of this and the time span?

KATIE MEYER, BYLINE: Sure. So the grand jury spent about two years looking into these allegations. It covered six dioceses across Pennsylvania, and the instances of abuse date back to the 1940s. The grand jury also says it thinks there are significantly more than the 1,000 victims it named because the cover-ups were so widespread and so thorough.

CORNISH: What details have you learned about these allegations?

MEYER: So in every one of the diocese, there are some really graphic stories of abuse. And one that was particularly striking was in Pittsburgh. There were - there was a case there. At least four priests forced at least one underage boy to pose naked on a bed in the rectory and pose as Christ on the cross. They took pictures of him, and they shared them amongst themselves on church grounds. This was part of a collection of child pornography that the priests kept. And there were other specific stories, too. Some of them were more shocking than that one.

CORNISH: So the report actually names these priests as abusers. Does it identify anyone else?

MEYER: Yes. So there are a number of higher-ranking church officials that are in here. This includes monsignors. There are bishops, assistant bishops. There are cardinals. The attorney general noted there were a couple officials who were promoted during and after they covered up abuse. And one of those, high-profile Cardinal Donald Wuerl - he served as the bishop of Pittsburgh at the time, and he's now the archbishop of Washington, D.C.

CORNISH: Now, I understand there were also a number of people who said they didn't want this report released. Tell us who they were.

MEYER: So about a dozen anonymous clergy members petitioned the state Supreme Court to block the report from coming out. They said they were named in the investigation, and so by doing that, it denied them due process 'cause they hadn't been charged with a crime. The state Supreme Court did want the report to come out, but it said it would release a redacted version, so it blacked out some names.

CORNISH: Katie, much of this abuse happened years ago, and we know that the statute of limitations can run out on prosecution. How is that being addressed in this case?

MEYER: The attorney general says in any case where the statute of limitations hasn't expired, prosecutions are underway now. But the report makes a number of recommendations to change state law so more prosecution can happen when the clock has already run out. So the state could, if it chooses, open up a two-year window for people whose abuse is outside of the statute of limitations. But it's unclear if that will happen. There's been some significant pushback from lawmakers who say that would be unfair to the Catholic Church and could bankrupt churches.

CORNISH: Reporter Katie Meyer of member station WITF, thank you.

MEYER: Thank you.

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