Report details sexual abuse by 300+ priests in Pennsylvania's Catholic Church

Priests in church

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The grand jury report says the diocese in Erie, Penn. and the diocese in Hawaii knew that Hannon had "admittedly abused at least 20 youths" who were between the ages of 12 and 19.

According to Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, there was a "systematic cover-up spanning decades by senior church leaders in Pennsylvania and the Vatican".

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, at podium, speaking during a news conference in Harrisburg.

It is thought to be the single most comprehensive report to date into abuse in the U.S. church, since The Boston Globe first exposed pedophile priests in MA in 2002.

"We can't charge most of the culprits", the report states. Most of the alleged crimes have exceeded statutes of limitations to bring charges.

"We will fight vigorously to remove every redaction", he said, noting that oral arguments on challenges brought by 11 of those named but not charged with a crime will begin September 26. However, the grand jury did find two priests who sexually assaulted children in the last decade.

Shapiro later issued a statement welcoming the state Supreme Court's decision to allow the report's release.

"It was none of those things".

Diocese leaders responded Tuesday by expressing sorrow for the victims, stressing how they've changed and unveiling, for the first time, a list of priests accused of some sort of sexual misconduct. Beginning in 1988, Wuerl enacted policies such as mandatory reporting to civil authorities, that would later become part of the Dallas Charter for the Protection of Children, adopted by the US bishops in 2002.

"I read the grand jury report on child sexual abuse with great sadness, for once again we read that innocent children were the victims of horrific acts committed against them", said Harrisburg's Bishop Ronald. "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", he said in a statement. Its findings echoed many earlier church investigations around the country, describing widespread sexual abuse and church officials' concealment of it.

For weeks, though, many Catholics in the United States had been warily waiting for the Pennsylvania grand jury's report, especially as bishops in the state began publicly releasing the names of accused clergy in an apparent attempt to preempt some of the report's findings.

Some were groped and raped. A 9-year-old boy was forced to perform oral sex and then had his mouth washed out with holy water.

Shapiro said the priests would mark their victims by giving them gifts. The pictures were added to a collection of child pornography and shared on church grounds.

In 1981, Erie Diocese priest Robert F. Bower was found to have collected child pornography, but one of the four diocesan workers who reported it to a priest in church was sacked.

The grand jury's report comes at a time of renewed scrutiny and fresh scandal at the highest levels of the US Catholic Church.

Wuerl has come under harsh criticism over his response to the McCarrick scandal, with some commentators questioning his claims of surprise and ignorance over allegations that McCarrick molested and harassed young seminarians.

Keeler arrived in Baltimore as archbishop in 1989, was made a cardinal in 1994 and retired in 2007.

The report alleges a long-standing strategy of "abuse - deny - cover up" by the six Pennsylvania dioceses that were the subject of the investigation: Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, and Scranton.

The bishops say they are "profoundly saddened each time we hear about the harm caused as a result of abuse, at the hands of a clergyman of any rank", while also promising "to offer avenues to healing for those who have been abused" as well as working resolutely "so that such abuse can not happen".

"Several diocesan administrators, including the bishops, often dissuaded victims from reporting abuse to police, pressured law enforcement to terminate or avoid an investigation or conducted their own deficient, biased investigation without reporting crimes against children to the proper authorities", the report says.

Some current and former clergy named in the report went to court to prevent its release, arguing it violated their constitutional rights.

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