A Grand Jury Report Revealed More Than 300 Pennsylvania Priests Sexually Abused Children

A grand jury report released on Tuesday names more than 300 Catholic priests in Pennsylvania accused of sexually abusing over 1,000 children. The report claims that it was covered up by a hierarchy of church leaders for over seven decades

“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. For decades,” the grand jury wrote in the report. 

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court made public an 18 month probe conducted by state Attorney General Josh Shapiro. It covered six dioceses in the state - Allentown, Eire, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, and Scranton. The report also follows other state grand jury reports revealing the abuse and cover-ups in two additional dioceses, the Washington Post reports. In the two-year investigation, the grand jury reviewed well-over 2 million documents and reports that weren’t made public. According to Vox, these “secret archives” were the reports of abuse hidden from the public by church leaders for decades. The charges in the report date back to 30 years ago, and stresses that their are most likely more victims and abusers in the state. 

The 1,400 page report is often graphic and truly disturbing. It details the widespread sexual abuse and rape by priests of female and male minors, including a number of priests around Pittsburgh whom exchanged pornographic photos of their victims. Vox also notes that the report mentions the priests used certain rhetoric to persuade their victims that their sexual abuse was “holy” or “desired by God”.  

According to the Washington Post, it is unclear whether there will be any criminal cases for the named priests and bishops. 

“As a consequence of the coverup, almost every instance of abuse we found is too old to be prosecuted,” the report said. The oldest victim in front of the grand jury was 83, according to CNN.

Shapiro and the grand jury said at a news conference that they’re held to statute of limitations. According to USA Today, victims of sex abuse as a child have until they are 30 to file suit in Pennsylvania. Victims also have until they’re 50 to file criminal charges. Legislators and the grand jury are calling for an end to limitations for criminal prosecution of child sexual abuse, according to the Washington Post. The grand jury also calls for a law to allow older victims to sue the church for damages, stricter laws that order the reporting of abuse, and to end settlement nondisclosure agreements, the Post also reports. 

National and international church and child sex abuse scandals have been brought to attention for decades. The Boston Globe’s spotlight team first brought  US clerical sex abuse scandals to light in 2002. The investigative journalists found at least 70 Boston priests who sexaully abused children. And just recently, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick put in his resignation after being accused of sexually abusing children and adults for decades.