On 14 August 2014, an Investigating Grand Jury in Pennsylvania issued its report regarding its inquiry into allegations of child sex abuse in six dioceses of the Catholic Church. According to the report, over 1 000 child victims were identifiable from the Church’s own records. The report constitutes the broadest examination in the United States of child sex abuse in the Catholic Church, with the Grand Jury having been constituted for approximately two years.
The report makes reference to the 2002 investigative exposé published in the Boston Globe that exposed the coverup of clergy sex abuse. As noted in the report, “the effect of the investigative reporting of the Boston Globe on this issue can’t be overstated. The newspaper’s articles created a national scandal that altered the atmosphere. Something the dioceses had long attempted to avoid was now a daily occurrence – a public call for transparency”.
According to the report, abuse complaints were kept locked in a ‘secret archive’, which is required by the Catholic Church’s Code of Canon Law to be maintained with only the bishop having the key. Common trends seen amongst the dioceses – referred to in the report as the ‘circle of secrecy’ – included deficient or bias diocesan investigations, lack of public disclosure, financial support to abusive priests, transfers rather than removals, and insufficient reports to law enforcement.
The report contains four key recommendations:
- Eliminate the criminal statute of limitations for sexually abusing children.
- Create a two-year ‘civil window’ for child sex abuse victims who could not file lawsuits before.
- Clarify the penalties for a continuing failure to report child abuse.
- Prohibit non-disclosure agreements regarding cooperation with law enforcement.
The final section of the report contains profiles of more than 300 clergy members from the six dioceses that were investigated, identifying them by name together with other relevant information, including (as applicable) a summary of the allegations against them, supporting evidence and admissions, and details of settlements entered into by the dioceses.
As noted in the report:
[T]he full picture is not yet clear. We know that child abuse in the church has not yet disappeared, because we are charging two priests, in two different dioceses, with crimes that fall within the statute of limitations …
And we know there might be many additional recent victims, who have not yet developed the resources to come forward either to police or to the church. As we have learned from the experiences of the victims who we saw, it takes time. We hope this report will encourage others to speak.
What we can say, though, is that despite some institutional reform, individual leaders of the church have largely escaped public accountability. 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. Monsignors, auxiliary bishops, bishops, archbishops, cardinals have mostly been protected; many, including some named in this report, have been promoted. Until that changes, we think it is too early to close the book on the Catholic Church sex scandal.”
The report of the Grand Jury is accessible here.
Media coverage (via The New York Times) is accessible here.
Please note: The information contained in this note is for general guidance on matters of interest, and does not constitute legal advice. Power Singh Inc. is not involved in this matter. For any enquiries, please contact us at [email protected].