7 Shocking Takeaways from the PA Catholic Church Grand Jury Document


Today was a day that will forever change the face of the Catholic Church in America. The New York Times reported today:

Bishops and other leaders of the Roman Catholic Church in Pennsylvania covered up child sexual abuse by more than 300 priests over a period of 70 years, persuading victims not to report the abuse and law enforcement not to investigate it, according to a searing report issued by a grand jury on Tuesday.

The report, which covered six of the state’s eight Catholic dioceses and found more than 1,000 identifiable victims, is the broadest examination yet by a government agency in the United States of child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. The report said there are likely thousands more victims whose records were lost or who were too afraid to come forward.

I’ve read a great deal of the report, and have pulled a few interesting parts out of the 1,300+ page document. What is shocking about this report isn’t just the scope, it’s the fact that all of this remained hidden after the Church was broken almost beyond repair by the early 2000 sex abuse crisis originating out of Boston after the Boston Globe broke the story open. This report is only about part of one American state, Pennsylvania. How many more tales of abuse are out there? How much innocence and faith has been stolen, and can the Church ever recover?

It’s clear that the scale of the abuse is massive, and it will take massive steps to correct.

On Facebook a priest named Seamus Griesbach from Portland wrote what he wants to see from the Church in response,

I don’t want to read one more statement from a bishop saying that he is “deeply saddened” by the latest reports of clergy sexual abuse and cover up. Really? Who is advising them on this wording? It is only making matters worse.

They need to make a complete and utter break from this despicable and horrendous behavior. How about a statement like:

“The sexual abuse of a child is an abomination. It is a complete betrayal of everything that Jesus is and everything that he taught. It is an act that even the most immoral of people recognize as detestable and depraved. The fact that Catholic bishops and staff were too cowardly or institutionally entrenched to eliminate this kind of behavior and abuse at the first inkling is a grave and reprehensible moral failure for which there must be real consequences. We will root out this detestable rot that has struck at the heart of our family of faith. We pledge to not rest until we have brought to light every misdeed and coverup. We call on the Holy Father to demand the resignation of any bishop in our midst who tolerated or overlooked immorality within his presbyterate or sought to cover it up. We pledge to react resolutely and transparently to any accusation of immoral activity that comes to our attention today or in the future. Finally, as an outward sign of our repentance, bishops will wear only purple vestments and remove their pectoral crosses for the coming year as a sign of our misery and shame over this grotesque and diabolical scandal that has so deeply injured and betrayed the faith of those entrusted to our care. We ask that all men and women of good will join us in this time of prayer and penance, asking God to have mercy on his sinful Catholic Church and to grant her shepherds the grace of true conversion and renewal in holiness of life.”

Here are seven key takeaways from the massive document, and this is only scratching the surface. The commentary in bold is mine, the text below is quoted directly from the document.

    1. Those involved believe in nothing. Not celibacy, not the sanctity of life. Nothing. 

      In another case, a priest raped a girl, got her pregnant, and arranged an abortion. The bishop expressed his feelings in a letter:”This is a very difficult time in your life, and I realize how upset you are. I too share your grief.”But the letter was not for the girl.

      It was addressed to the rapist.

    2. This scandal is big. Bigger than the last and any before it. 

      This final section of the report is possibly the most important. It contains profiles of more
      than 300 clergy members, from all six dioceses we investigated. By comparison, estimates of the
      number of abusive priests identified since 2002 in the Boston, Massachusetts archdiocese range
      from about 150 to 250.

    3. The stories are heinous. 

      Even out of these hundreds of odious stories, some stood out. There was the priest, for example, who raped a seven -year -old girl – while he was visiting her in the hospital after she’d had her tonsils out. Or the priest who made a nine -year -old give him oral sex, then rinsed out the boy’s mouth with holy water to purify him. Or the boy who drank some juice at his priest’s house, and woke up the next morning bleeding from his rectum, unable to remember anything from the night before. Or the priest, a registered psychologist, who “treated” a young parishioner with depression by attempting to hypnotize her and directing her to take off her clothes, piece by piece.

    4. And even when offenders left the Church, children still weren’t safe. And the Church didn’t care
      Yet another priest finally decided to quit after years of child abuse complaints, but asked for, and received, a letter of reference for his next job – at Walt Disney World.
    5. This is far from a complete accounting of the abuse, sadly.

      We should emphasize that, while the list of priests is long, we don’t think we got them all.
      We feel certain that many victims never came forward, and that the dioceses did not create written
      records every single time they heard something about abuse. We also couldn’t fully account for
      out-of-state travel. Many priests who served in Pennsylvania also spent some of their careers in
      other parts of the country. If they abused children elsewhere, reports might have made their way
      back to diocesan files here. But we suspect that a lot did not.
    6. Despite turning over all of its records, reports the Church received are still missing. What else is the Church hiding, just in this small area of the country? 

      On September 1, 2016, the Grand Jury issued a subpoena to the Diocese for any and all records related to clergy or church officials against whom complaints of child sexual abuse had been made. Records received by the Office of Attorney General from the Diocese numbered into the thousands. The testimony of the victims was cross-referenced with the records of the Diocese. Internal Diocesan records do not contain any information from Julianne’ s reports to Weasel or Murphy. [Note: Julianne was a victim who came forward to the grand jury separately.] However, it is evident that, once Julianne made contact with the Diocese in 2002, the Diocese and its attorney, Thomas Traud, attempted to undermine and discredit Julianne and her family.

    7. It wasn’t just faith destroyed. Lives were as well. 

      During our deliberations, one of the victims who had appeared before us tried to kill herself. From her hospital bed, she asked for one thing: that we finish our work and tell the world what really happened. We feel a debt to this woman, and to the many other victims who so exposed themselves by giving us their stories. We hope this report will make good on what we owe.

Published in Religion & Philosophy

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  1. jeannebodine Member

    Painter Jean

    That is disappointing, to put it mildly.

    I want to see real acts of penance. I want to see some evidence that these bishops actually fear the wrath of God for what they’ve done. I want to see the “lavender mafia” called out – yes, I know that it’s not culturally or politically correct to say anything negative about gays, but frankly I want them out, out, out of the clergy. And I wish some bishops would have the guts to say so.

    The Church is going to get a lot smaller, as Benedict XVI predicted. This isn’t how I expected it to happen, but maybe that’s how it’s going to happen here.

    Thank you, Painter Jean, for putting my feelings into words.

    • #91
  2. Jules PA Inactive
    Jules PA

    Nerina Bellinger (View Comment):
    I’m just trying to convince myself to go to Mass.

    We go to Mass and other services to seek G-d, to hear G-d, to worship and thank G-d, not men.

    G-d is there, even if his servants are flawed humans. 

    The wound of betrayal is deep, but G-d will heal it. Bless you @nerinabellinger.

    • #92
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