Clergy abuse report blocked by PA Supreme Court
PA Supreme Court blocks grand jury report’s public release
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court stopped the release of a grand jury report investigating decades of sexual abuse in six Catholic dioceses across the state as a result of challenges filed by unnamed parties. While the report was issued to six dioceses under investigation, no estimated date has been provided for when the 800 plus-page report will be made public.
The grand jury spent nearly two years investigating allegations of sexual abuse by the clergy in Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh and Scranton. These dioceses have roughly 1.7 million members.
The investigation covered not only claims of child sexual abuse, but also failure to report to law enforcement and obstruction of justice. In addition to the clergy, clergy community leaders, local public officeholders, and church officers were investigated. The jurors reviewed over 500,000 pages of diocesan archives. The report is anticipated to be the largest in scale by any state, according to some victim advocates.
This investigation follows a 2016 grand jury report looking only at the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown. In that case, roughly 50 people were identified who either committed alleged abuse against hundreds of victims or were involved in covering up the abuse.
According to the unanimous and unsigned Supreme Court ruling blocking the release of the report, most of the individuals filing challenges claimed that their reputational rights, as guaranteed by the state constitution, would be violated if the report were released as they were not aware of or allowed to appear at the proceedings before the grand jury. The justices stated that they have not seen the entire report and that the stay order will be reviewed once they have received sufficient information about the constitutional claims to make a properly informed decision.
State Representative Mark Rozzi, D-Berks, was one of the dozens of individuals that testified before the grand jury about abuse he and others endured as children by his Allentown Diocese priest. After the announcement of the Supreme Court’s ruling, Rozzi stated that he believes the Catholic Church is behind the requests to block the release of the report despite the bishops in the six dioceses pledging not to take such action. He described the ruling as “a punch in the gut”.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, whose office lead the investigation, also appeared to be shocked by the high court’s decision. He vowed to “continue fighting tirelessly to make sure the victims of this abuse are able to tell their stories and the findings of this investigation are made public to the people of Pennsylvania.” This is a legal battle worth following. Justice for these brave victims starts with breaking the silence that has surrounded their suffering.
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