(KDKA) — The long-awaited state grand jury report into sexual
abuse in six Pennsylvania dioceses, including Pittsburgh and
Greensburg, has finally been released.
884-page document, two years in the making, shines a light into
the dark corners of these dioceses going back seven decades,
exposing the predators and the efforts of their bishops to protect
the most comprehensive report on child sexual abuse within the
church ever produced in our country was released,” Attorney
General Josh Shapiro said. “Pennsylvanians can finally learn the
extent of sexual abuse in these dioceses. For the first time, we
can all begin to understand the systematic cover up by church
leaders that followed. The abuse scarred every diocese. The cover
up was sophisticated. The church protected the institution at all
clergy abuse victims who had testified before the grand jury
attended Shapiro’s news conference. At least one of them could be
seen breaking down in tears.
report begins with the following statement:
the members of this grand jury, need you to hear this. We know
some of you have head some of it before. 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, someplace away. Now we know the truth:
it happened everywhere.”
report cites 301 priests, clergy and lay teachers with credible
allegations against them. There are 99 in the Diocese of
those 99, a group of four groomed and violently sexually assaulted
young boys, said Shapiro.
boy was forced to stand on a bed in a rectory, strip naked and
pose as Christ on the cross for the priests. They took photos of
their victim, adding them to a collection of child pornography
which they produced and shared on church grounds,” Shapiro said.
said the priests would mark their victims by giving them gifts.
make it easier to target their victims, the priests gave their
favored boys gifts – gold crosses to wear as necklaces. The
crosses were markings of which boys had been groomed for abuse,”
of an on-going legal battle, more than a dozen names and
identifying information have been redacted. But the report shows a
consistent pattern of bishops having prior knowledge of the
actions of these predatory priests, reassigning them and not
alerting law enforcement.
said his office is not satisfied with the release of the redacted
report. Shapiro said each one of those redactions represents a
story of abuse that deserves to be told. He went on to say that he
will fight to reveal the names currently redacted in the report.
victims were brushed aside, in every part of the state, by
church leaders who preferred to protect the abusers and their
institution above all. The main thing was not to help
children, but to avoid scandal.”
were raping little boys and girls and the men of God who were
responsible for them not only did nothing: they hid it all.”
administrators, including the Bishops, had knowledge of this
conduct and yet priests were regularly placed in ministry
after the Diocese was on notice that a complaint of child
sexual abuse had been made. This conduct enabled offenders and
endangered the welfare of children.”
addition, the report says administrators and Bishops“often
dissuaded victims from reporting abuse to police, pressured law
enforcement to terminate or avoid an investigation, or conducted
their own deficient, biased investigations without reporting
crimes against children to the proper authorities.”
all else, they protected their institution at all cost,” Shapiro
report includes some priests who stood trial and were convicted of
sexual assault. In the Diocese of Pittsburgh, they include: Father
Robert Wolk of St. Thomas More in Bethel Park; Father Richard Zula
of Saints Mary and Ann in Marianna, Washington County, and Father
Richard Dorsch, convicted of sexually assaulting a 13-year-old boy
in North Park.
now, the Pittsburgh Diocese had been considered a leader in those
reforms since now Cardinal, then bishop, Donald Wuerl defied the
Vatican back in 1993 by refusing to reassign pedophile priest
Anthony Cipolla. Wuerl was a leader in formulating policies to
protect children, but in the report, his record here also comes
Wuerl responded to the allegations in a statement saying:
I have made clear throughout my more than 30 years as a bishop,
the sexual abuse of children by some members of the Catholic
Church is a terrible tragedy, and the Church can never express
enough our deep sorrow and contrition for the abuse, and for the
failure to respond promptly and completely. While I understand
this Report may be critical of some of my actions, I believe the
Report confirms that I acted with diligence, with concern for
the victims and to prevent future acts of abuse. I sincerely
hope that a just assessment of my actions, past and present, and
my continuing commitment to the protection of children will
dispel any notions otherwise made by this report.”
Archdiocese of Washington, which Cardinal Wuerl leads now disputes
some of the report.
a statement, they say, in part: “The document referenced by the
Report contains the hand-written phrase “circle of secrecy.”
However, the handwriting does not belong to then-Bishop Wuerl as
the writers of the Report mistakenly assumed. Indeed, the Cardinal
confirmed the handwriting is not his, and confirmed he neither
wrote nor used the phrase while serving as Bishop of Pittsburgh.
When the Cardinal’s legal counsel informed the Pennsylvania
Attorney General’s Office about this error – prior to the Release
of the Report – the Attorney General and his Senior Deputy refused
to acknowledge the mistake and refused to take any steps to
correct the dramatic use and misattribution of the phrase in the
concerned about our people that they may be scandalized and
tempted to turn their backs on God,” Zubik told KDKA.
a letter read at Sunday mass, Bishop Zubik also said 90 percent of
the cases involved incidents that occurred before 1990 and that
the church has instituted safeguards and reforms to identify and
weed out the abusers. He said no priest or deacon with a credible
allegation against them is in active ministry today.
really felt it was important, the letter, to get people ready for
the report because it’s going to be tough, and at the same time,
to realize the decisions that the Diocese of Pittsburgh makes
today are far different than what would have been made over the
course of the last 10, 20 years,” Zubik said.
for the Diocese of Greensburg, the grand jury named 20 priests in
priest, Fr. Raymond Lukac, impregnated a 17-year-old girl, forged
another pastor’s signature on a marriage certificate then divorced
the girl shortly after she gave birth. Despite having sex with a
minor, fathering a child and being married and divorced, Fr. Lukac
was allowed to stay in ministry while the diocese sought a
benevolent bishop in another state willing to take the predator,
hiding him from justice,” Shapiro said.
to Shapiro, coverups by the church were done in an attempt to run
out the clock on the statute of limitations.
grand jury detailed that the coverups by the church served a key
purpose – the longer they covered up abuses, the less chance that
law enforcement could prosecute predator priests because the
statute of limitations would run out,” Shapiro said.
most of the cases are old and the clergy accused are retired or
deceased, just two weeks ago Shapiro announced that Father Tomas
Sweeney of the Greensburg Diocesehad
pled guilty to indecent assault.
can be no doubt that Father Sweeney is a predator priest,” Shapiro
Erie, Fr. David Poulson was also charged with the abuse of an
8-year-old boy over the course of eight years.
Jury Reform Recommendations
part of the report, the grand jury has recommended four changes be
made to Pennsylvania law:
Eliminate the criminal statute of limitations for sexually
grand jury exists because Pennsylvania dioceses routinely hid
reports of child sex crimes while the statutes of limitations for
those crimes expired. We just do not understand why that should be
allowed to happen. If child abusers knew they could never become
immune for their crimes by outrunning the statute of limitations,
maybe there would be less child abuse.”
David Highfield Reports:
Create a two-year “civil window for child sex abuse victims who
couldn’t file lawsuits before.
don’t just need sex criminals prosecuted; they need care and
compensation for harm done by the abusers and the institutions
that empowered them. The way you get that is by suing. We
understand that civil cases are different than criminal
prosecutions, and that it’s appropriate to have a statute of
limitation that prohibits lawsuits after a certain amount of time.
We’re OK with a time limit for lawsuits, as long as it’s a long
time limit, and Pennsylvania’s is pretty good – until the victim
reaches age 30, which is longer than in most other states.
problem is that this law doesn’t apply to most of our victims.
It’s only been in effect for about 15 years, and most of the
victims from before then were under a much tighter time limit for
suing – only two years. But even that two-year limit was something
of a sham. Until not too long ago, the church was actively and
systematically concealing clergy sex abuse. Victims didn’t know if
their attackers had a history of abuse, and they didn’t know the
diocese had been enabling that abuse. You can’t very well exercise
your right to sue when the people responsible are doing their best
to cover up.”
Clarify the penalties for a continuing failure to report child
child abusers isn’t just a moral obligation; it’s the law. We
can’t pass laws telling the church how to administer its internal
operations – but we can demand that it inform authorities about
rapists and molesters. Unfortunately, document after document told
us the same story: church officials repeatedly received word of
crimes against kids, yet repeatedly refused to alert law
Prohibit “non-disclosure” agreements regarding cooperation with
also think it’s time to tackle an issue that hasn’t been mentioned
in prior grand jury investigations of clergy sex abuse. We’ve
heard the reports over the last year about the use of
confidentiality agreements to make sexual harassment suits go
away. We can tell you that it doesn’t just happen to women in the
workplace; we’ve seen the same tactic used by the dioceses to hush
up child sex abuse in the church. In the rare case where a child
was able to report abuse within the statute of limitations for
filing a lawsuit, the bishops would avoid “scandal” by paying off
the family to keep quiet.”
is help available for victims of abuse.
first is the Attorney General’s Hotline at1-888-538-8541.
You can call that number if you or someone you know is a survivor
of abuse in the church.
second is the number for SNAP, a survivors’ network, at1-877-762-7432.
if you are aware of ongoing child abuse anywhere in Pennsylvania,
you are urged to call ChildLine at1-800-932-0313.