The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Tuesday released a sweeping grand jury report on sex abuse in the Catholic Church, listing more than 300 accused clergy and detailing a “systematic” coverup effort by church leaders over 70 years.
State Attorney General Josh Shapiro said at a news conference Tuesday that more than 1,000 child victims were identified in the report, but the grand jury believes there are more.
The investigation is the most comprehensive yet on Catholic Church sex abuse in the United States. The 18-month probe covered state’s eight dioceses — Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, Allentown, Scranton, Erie and Greensburg — and follows other state grand jury reports that revealed abuse and coverups in two other dioceses.
Shapiro said that the report details a “systematic coverup by senior church officials in Pennsylvania and at the Vatican.”
The nearly 1,400-page report’s introduction makes clear that few criminal cases may result from the massive investigation.
“As a consequence of the coverup, almost every instance of abuse we found is too old to be prosecuted,” it reads.
“We subpoenaed, and reviewed, half a million pages of internal diocesan documents. They contained credible allegations against over three hundred predator priests. Over one thousand child victims were identifiable, from the church’s own records. We believe that the real number — of children whose records were lost, or who were afraid ever to come forward — is in the thousands.”
Some details and names that might reveal the clergy listed have been redacted from the report. Legal challenges by clergy delayed the report’s release, after some said it is a violation of their constitutional rights. Shapiro said they will work to remove every redaction.
The report has helped renew a crisis many in the church thought and hoped had ended nearly 20 years ago after the scandal erupted in Boston. But recent abuse-related scandals, from Chile to Australia, have reopened wounding questions about accountability and whether church officials are still covering up crimes at the highest levels.
The new wave of allegations has called Pope Francis’s handling of abuse into question as many Catholics look to him to help the church regain its credibility. The pope’s track record has been mixed, something some outsiders attribute to his learning curve or shortcomings and others chalk up to resistance from a notoriously change-averse institution.