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Bishops accused of brushing off sexual abuse complaints


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https://ph.news.yahoo.com/report-pennsylvania-priests-abused-over-1-000-children-042935265.html

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — A priest raped a 7-year-old girl while visiting her in the hospital after she had her tonsils removed. Another priest forced a 9-year-old boy into having oral sex, then rinsed out the youngster's mouth with holy water. One boy was forced to say confession to the priest who sexually abused him.

An estimated 300 Roman Catholic priests in Pennsylvania molested more than 1,000 children — and possibly many more — since the 1940s, according to a scathing Pennsylvania grand jury report released Tuesday that accused senior church officials, including the man who is now archbishop of Washington, D.C., of systematically covering up complaints.

The "real number" of victimized children and abusive priests might be higher since some secret church records were lost and some victims never came forward, the grand jury said in the report that is the largest of its kind in the United States.

U.S. bishops adopted widespread reforms in 2002 when clergy abuse became a national crisis for the church, including stricter requirements for reporting accusations to law enforcement and a streamlined process for removing clerics. But the grand jury said more changes are needed.

"Despite some institutional reform, individual leaders of the church have largely escaped public accountability," the grand jury wrote in the roughly 900-page report. "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."

Top church officials have mostly been protected, and many, including some named in the report, have been promoted, the grand jury said, concluding that "it is too early to close the book on the Catholic Church sex scandal."

Cardinal Donald Wuerl, leader of the Washington Archdiocese, was accused in the report of helping to protect abusive priests when he was Pittsburgh's bishop from 1988 to 2006.

Wuerl has disputed the allegations.

At a Mass held Wednesday in Washington on the feast of the Assumption of Mary, Wuerl did not address the accusations against himself, but urged parishioners not to lose confidence in the church over the "terrible plague" of abuse.

In nearly every case, the Pennsylvania grand jury said, prosecutors found that the statute of limitations has run out, meaning criminal charges cannot be filed. More than 100 of the priests are dead. Many others are retired or have been dismissed from the priesthood or put on leave.

Authorities charged just two as a result of the grand jury investigation, including a priest who has since pleaded guilty, though some of those named were prosecuted years ago.

The investigation of six of Pennsylvania's eight dioceses— Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh and Scranton — is the most extensive investigation of Catholic clergy abuse by any state, according to victims' advocates. The dioceses represent about 1.7 million Catholics.

Until now, there have been nine investigations by a prosecutor or grand jury of a Catholic diocese or archdiocese in the U.S., according to the Massachusetts-based research and advocacy organization BishopAccountability.org.

"One thing this is going to do is put pressure on prosecutors elsewhere to take a look at what's going on in their neck of the woods," Terry McKiernan of BishopAccountability.org said.

The Philadelphia Archdiocese and the Johnstown-Altoona Diocese were not included in the probe because they have been the subject of three previous scathing grand jury investigations.

As church officials scrambled to defend themselves, the state attorney general's office said its hotline for victims had lit up, fielding more than 150 calls within 24 hours of the report becoming public.

Calls to the hotline in 2016 spurred the grand jury investigation, and Attorney General Josh Shapiro said the investigation is still going on.

The grand jury heard from dozens of witnesses and reviewed more than a half-million pages of internal diocesan documents, including reports by bishops to Vatican officials about the allegations against priests.

The panel concluded that a succession of bishops and other diocesan leaders tried to shield the church from bad publicity and financial liability. They failed to report accused clergy to police, used confidentiality agreements to silence victims and sent priests to "treatment facilities," which "laundered" the clergymen and "permitted hundreds of known offenders to return to ministry," the report said.

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Vatican responds to Pennsylvania priest abuse scandal with 'shame and sorrow'

"The abuses described in the report are criminal and morally reprehensible," the statement read. "Those acts were betrayals of trust that robbed survivors of their dignity and their faith."

More than 1,000 children were allegedly abused by more than 300 "predator priests" and church officials were accused of covering up the allegations, a grand jury's report released Tuesday said.

"The Church must learn hard lessons from its past, and there should be accountability for both abusers and those who permitted abuse to occur," the Vatican said.

Pope Francis himself wasn't quoted in the statement, and there was no mention of demands in the United States among some Catholics for the resignation of Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington. Tuesday's report accused Wuerl of helping to protect some child-molesting priests while he was bishop of Pittsburgh from 1988 to 2006.

Over the course of a two year investigation, launched by Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro's office, a grand jury heard several witness statements and reviewed documents from six dioceses in the state.

Most of the Pennsylvania victims were boys, but girls were abused, too, the report said.

The abuse ranged from groping and masturbation to anal, oral and vaginal rape. One boy was forced to say confession to the priest who sexually abused him. A 9-year-old boy was forced to perform oral sex and then had his mouth washed out with holy water. Another boy was made to pose naked as if being crucified and then was photographed by a group of priests who Shapiro said produced and shared child pornography on church grounds.

In nearly all of the cases, the statute of limitations has run out, meaning that criminal charges cannot be filed. More than 100 of the priests are dead, and many others are retired or have been dismissed from the priesthood or put on leave.

STUNNING FINDINGS ON REPORT OF CATHOLIC CHURCH ABUSE: PA. PRIESTS MOLESTED MORE THAN 1,000 CHILDREN

"The cover-up was sophisticated. And all the while, shockingly, church leadership kept records of the abuse and the cover-up," Shapiro said at a Tuesday news conference. "These documents, from the dioceses' own 'Secret Archives,' formed the backbone of this investigation."

It's possible that the "real number" of abused children could be "in the thousands" due to missing records or other victims who feared speaking about the allegations, according to the grand jury's report.

The report is taken "with great seriousness," the Vatican said Thursday, adding that they "unequivocally" condemn "the sexual abuse of minors."

"Victims should know that the Pope is on their side," the statement continued.

"The Holy Father understands well how much these crimes can shake the faith and the spirit of believers and reiterates the call to make every effort to create a safe environment for minors and vulnerable adults in the Church and in all of society."

http://www.foxnews.com/world/2018/08/16/vatican-responds-to-pennsylvania-priest-abuse-scandal-with-shame-and-sorrow.html

 

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