A grand jury report has named over 300 priests involved in the abuse of more than 1,000 victims after spending two years reviewing more than 500,000 documents from six of Pennsylvania’s eight Roman Catholic dioceses’ secret archives and hearing testimony from dozens of victims and the Bishop of Erie.
The report goes on to describe the actions of bishops and other leaders within the church who spent years persuading victims not to report abuse and law enforcement not to investigate claims. This is the broadest examination the FBI has performed regarding child sexual abuse within the Catholic Church in the United States, and investigators believe that there may be thousands of other victims whose records were lost or who did not wish to come forward.
The grand jury wrote in their report, “Despite some institutional reform, individual leaders of the church have largely escaped public accountability. 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. For decades.”
While some priests were removed from ministry after accusations of abuse were made, the report indicated that church officials followed a “playbook for concealing the truth,” often allowing priests to maintain their position and even allowing some priests to be promoted or transferred after the alleged abuses occurred.
Pennsylvania state lawmakers are now considering a bill that would eliminate the criminal statute of limitations and lengthen the window of time available to victims to file civil suits. Under current Pennsylvania law, child victims of sexual crimes may pursue criminal charges against an abuser until the age of 50, and victims may file civil suits until the age of 30. The new bill would do away with deadlines for criminal charges and provide victims the ability to file a civil suit until the age of 50. One Pennsylvania state lawmaker also wishes to provide a temporary opening for victims named in the grand jury report who would otherwise be unable, due to their age, to file a civil suit. As the law is currently written, much of the abuse alleged in the report is too old to be prosecuted, but charges have been filed against two priests, one in Erie diocese and another in Greensburg diocese, who have been accused of abusing minors.
While sexual abuse is always horrific in nature, abuse by those in positions of power is especially egregious, and victims of such abuse must be heard when they choose to make an allegation. Attorneys from the Law Offices of Peter Angelos are available to discuss legal implications of this matter, and victims affected by the Pennsylvania grand jury report have been urged by local officials to discuss their legal options. The Law Offices of Peter Angelos has decades of experience in successfully representing victims as part of class action lawsuits, and has supported the Pennsylvania community for years through its three office locations in Pennsylvania.