Report Reveals At Least 1,000 Victims of Sexual Abuse By Pennsylvania Priests

A 900-page report from a grand jury investigation into clergy sexual abuse in Pennsylvania was released on Tuesday, detailing a horrific, decades-long coverup of abuse involving 300 “predator priests” and a least 1,000 victims in six different dioceses.

The damning report does not include exhibits but is thought to be one of the most comprehensive such reports, uncovering child sexual abuse in the dioceses of Scranton, Allentown, Harrisburg, Greensburg, Erie and Pittsburgh. The dioceses of Philadelphia and Altoona-Johnstown were covered in previous reports.

Accounts of abuse were found in hundreds of parishes in 54 of the state’s 67 counties for as long as 80 years.

The grand jury found credible allegations by more than 1,000 victims, but said, “we believe that the real number…is in the thousands.”

“We saw these victims; they are marked for life,” they wrote. “Many of them wind up addicted, or impaired, or dead before their time.”

Attorney General Josh Shapiro described a “systematic cover-up” and “failure of law enforcement.”

“Despite some institutional reform, individual leaders of the church have largely escaped public accountability,” read the report. “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.”

The grand jury found an institution which not only protected predators at the expense of children, but many times promoted them.

This is only an interim report, with many redactions, while legal matters are sorted out, but it did include a list of recommendations. One recommendation is allowing for a “civil window” law, which would give victims two years to file civil charges.

Another is eliminating the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse. Under the current law, the statute of limitations has expired in many of the cases, making it difficult for victims to seek justice in either criminal or civil cases. So far, only two of the cases have led to charges.

Care2 member Lacey Kohlmoos started a petition calling for the elimination of the statute of limitations in Pennsylvania, allowing these and many other victims to seek justice regardless of how long ago they were abused. The petition currently has 106,000 signatures.

Last August, Lacey started working with the Campaign to Abolish Statutes of Limitation on Rape and Sexual Assault (CASOL), which ramped up their efforts in April surrounding Bill Cosby‘s re-trial. She was involved not only in the petition but also organizing a press conference to raise awareness of the issue and demonstrating outside the courthouse on the last day of Cosby’s trial.

Just like in the clergy abuse cases, the statue of limitations worked in the Cosby case only to serve and protect Cosby, not his victims.

“Over 60 women accused Cosby of sexual assault, but due to statutes of limitations in 30 states, only one survivor was able to press charges. And now we have just uncovered over 300 priests in Pennsylvania who have raped and sexually abused at least 1,000 children over the course of decades,” said Lacey in an interview. “There should be no time limit on justice.”

Most proponents of a statute of limitations on sexual assault say that it prevents false accusations without any evidence, but Lacey believes it’s actually more likely for the statute of limitations to run out while a rape kit is waiting to be tested than it is for someone to make a false allegation.

In reality, she says, a handful of powerful people—including the Catholic Church—have been working to keep the statute of limitations in Pennsylvania.

“And now,” she says, “with the recent release of the report identifying over 300 Pennsylvania priests as sexual predators, it is clear why they have been working so hard to protect rapists and silence survivors.”

When asked why she became involved in eliminating the statute of limitations, Lacey said, “I live in Pennsylvania. I am Care2′s Organizing Strategist. I am a woman. And I am a mother. I feel like it is my duty to work to abolish my state’s statute of limitation on rape and sexual assault.”

Take Action

Sign Lacey’s petition to demand the government of Pennsylvania stop protecting predators and eliminate the statute of limitations for sexual assault so victims can finally get justice.

Want to make a difference on an issue you find deeply troubling? Create a Care2 petition, and use this handy guide to get started. You’ll find Care2’s vibrant community of activists ready to step up and help you.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

90 comments

Roopak V
Roopak Vaidya2 months ago

A Bishop in India has been accused of rape by a Nun. He seems to be getting away stock free till now.
https://youtu.be/EMeG15W2WhA

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Chad Anderson
Chad Anderson2 months ago

Thank you.

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Karen H
Karen H2 months ago

Ironic, isn't it, that one Catholic school in the U.S. kicks out a Black girl for wearing hair extensions but the entire Catholic church is now under scrutiny for sexual abuse? Somebody's got their priorities screwed up.

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danii p
danii p2 months ago

Tyfs

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danii p
danii p2 months ago

Tyfs

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Karen H
Karen H2 months ago

Karen S, if that's the way the Catholic church thinks, I'd rather not to go their idea of "heaven". Interesting that there's a stairway to heaven but a highway to hell...

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Roopak Vaidya
Roopak Vaidya2 months ago

Abolishing the statute of limitations is not the solution. Abolish the church itself!

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Roopak Vaidya
Roopak Vaidya2 months ago

What do these priests get away with in developing countries? Where access to the justice system is difficult, and where children are rarely allowed to speak against their elders?

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Roopak Vaidya
Roopak Vaidya2 months ago

Why aren't there any women priests in the church? Why is such outright sexism allowed only for this one organisation?

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Lesa D
Lesa D2 months ago

#112967 petition signed...

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