Tuesday, 20 November, 2018

Reaction to priest sex abuse report in Pennsylvania: 'I have lost faith'

Grand Jury Report Identifies 300 ‘Predator Priests’ Who Allegedly Molested More Than 1,000 Children In 6 Pennsylvania Dioceses Vatican covered up sex abuse by 300 ‘predator priests,’ 1000s of victims possible – Penn. grand jury
| 15 August, 2018, 20:48

In the Erie Catholic Diocese, the investigation found one priest - Father Chester Gawronski - fondled boys and told them he was giving them a "cancer check".

More than 1000 children were sexually abused by hundreds of paedophile priests in Pennsylvania for decades, according to a report released today by Attorney General Josh Shapiro.

A number of priests cited in the report were found by church and civil authorities in possession of child pornography as well.

About 15 victims flanked Shapiro at the news conference on Tuesday, several holding back tears.

At nearly 900 pages, the exhaustive report details methods by leaders of the dioceses to insulate accused members of the church from outside prosecution and judgment - employing the same strategies uncovered by The Boston Globe's 2002 report on the systematic cover-up of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church.

The grand jury's searing report comes as the Catholic Church, including Pope Francis, is struggling to contain a sexual abuse scandal rapidly consuming the church on several continents.

"Over 1,000 child victims were identified by our investigation, though the grand jury notes that they believe that number was in the thousands", Shapiro said. That means more lawsuits and possibly criminal charges for bishops who might be accused of negligence and even cover-ups.

The Philadelphia archdiocese and the Johnstown-Altoona diocese were not included in the investigation because they have been the subject of three previous scathing grand jury investigations.

Meanwhile, the six dioceses have pledged to publish the list of priests accused of sexually abusing children in their region, and some, including Greensburg and Harrisburg, already have.

Church officials "routinely and purposefully described the abuse as horseplay and wrestling" and simply "inappropriate conduct", Shapiro said.


He went on: "Priests were raping little boys and girls, and the men of God who were responsible for them not only did nothing. The crosses were markings of which boys had been groomed for abuse", Shapiro said.

The report cited 301 priests, some of whom have died.

Some of those named in the report had their names redacted, or blacked out, after challenging the inclusion of their identities in it without having the legal opportunity to defend themselves.

More than a dozen victims and family members of victims joined the attorney general Tuesday for a press conference in Harrisburg, crying and leaning on one another for comfort as details of sexual assaults by priests on children were made public.

Giella retired voluntarily in 1988 and continued to molest girls into the 1990s, a common pattern in so many cases, according to the report.

The attorney general said that Catholic bishops covered up child sexual abuse by priests and reassigned them repeatedly to different parishes.

The bishops say they are "profoundly saddened each time we hear about the harm caused as a result of abuse, at the hands of a clergyman of any rank", while also promising "to offer avenues to healing for those who have been abused" as well as working resolutely "so that such abuse can not happen".

The priests marked their victims with gifts. Wuerl called a mandatory meeting for all priests in his diocese that year, telling them that any sexual contact with a minor would result in removal from ministry and possible imprisonment.

A priest raped a 7-year-old girl while he was visiting her in the hospital after she'd had her tonsils removed. Another child drank juice, only to wake up the next morning bleeding from his rectum and unable to remember what had happened. A boy, 9, was forced to perform a sex act and then had his mouth washed out with holy water.

Since the Boston abuse scandal first erupted in the 1990s, fresh accusations involving American clerics have sporadically surfaced, further tarnishing the church's public image. "The Roman Catholic Diocese of Honolulu remains committed to compassionate resolution and justice for those who were victims of abuse, as well as the continued implementation of multi-level internal safeguards, training programs and mandated reporting procedures to prevent this type of abuse from happening again". "We must offer our solemn and humble prayers for the victims' healing". But there is no full accounting of abuse in the Catholic Church in the United States.

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