Pennsylvania has been ground zero for a number of investigations into child sexual abuse at the hands of leaders in the Catholic Church.
In 2016, we learned that the diocese of Altoona-Johnstown was home to more than one hundreds instances of abuse by “at least 50 priests.” And that was just one diocese! With fewer than 100,000 members, no less, making for an astonishing and heartbreaking ratio. They eventually implemented a number of protocols to prevent such crimes in the future. It wasn’t nearly enough, but it was a start.
There was hope for more, though. A grand jury investigation looked into six of the eight dioceses in the states — in Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, and Scranton — and the attorney general was expected to release an 884-page report on what they found to the public. (The bishops in all six dioceses have already seen the report.) In theory, that report could shine a light on other instances of abuse that was ignored or covered up. It could be a bombshell against the Catholic Church.
“It is going to be the worst grand jury report in American history on sexual abuse cases, because it is going to be expansive,” [State Rep. Mark] Rozzi said, adding that it would also include testimony by priests and nuns about sexual abuse they suffered at the hands of other priests.
“It will be the same stories over and over again. Of sexual abuse, of rape and cover-up,” he told the Guardian.
That’s all a prediction, since even Rozzi hasn’t seen the report, but holy shit. Atheist Christmas is coming early this year! The report was scheduled to be released by the end of the month.
… but then, this week, we heard some devastating news.
… Wednesday, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court struck a blow to Rozzi and other abuse survivors by ordering a stay on the report. The order, according to Penn Live, prohibits Judge Norman A. Krumenacker III and Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro from publishing the grand jury’s findings, and postpones the report’s release indefinitely.
They’re not releasing it. While a reason wasn’t given in that brief order, journalists learned that certain individuals whose names appear in the report (but are not indicted) fear the harm the release would do to their reputations and they want to stall for time:
Unsealed court documents obtained by PennLive from the state Office of Attorney General indicate that unidentified individuals or entities named but not indicted in the investigation report sought to have evidentiary hearings prior to the release of the report. The individuals argued that “the reputation interest of the non-indicted named persons will be harmed by the release of the report.”
The individuals noted that such hearings are required by due process.
The Daily Beast notes that there was a little more back and forth after that, and that the bishops of all six dioceses deny having anything to do with this delay.
So for now, there’s a delay. We don’t know how long it’ll be. But for the sake of victims everywhere, let’s hope this gets resolved as soon as possible and the full report is released to the public. It’s about time abusive religious leaders were brought to justice and their names were made public to the world.
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