A state grand jury report recounted sexual abuse by Catholic priests in Pennsylvania since the 1940s. Prosecutors say that in nearly every case, statutes of limitations preclude criminal charges.
A priest raped a 7-year-old girl while visiting her in the hospital after she’d had her tonsils removed. Another priest forced a 9-year-old boy into oral sex, then rinsed out the boy’s mouth with holy water. One boy was forced to say confession to the priest who abused him. Those children are among the victims of about 300 Roman Catholic priests in Pennsylvania who molested more than 1,000 children since the 1940s, according to a sweeping state grand jury report that accused senior church officials, including the current archbishop of Washington, D.C., of systematically covering up complaints, the Associated Press reports.
The true number of abused children and abusive priests might be higher since some secret church records were lost and some victims never came forward, the grand jury said. While the grand jury said dioceses have established internal processes and seem to refer complaints to law enforcement more promptly, it suggested that important changes are lacking. “Despite some institutional reform, individual leaders of the church have largely escaped public accountability,” the grand jury wrote. “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.” In nearly every case, prosecutors found that the statute of limitations has run out, meaning that 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, including a priest who has since pleaded guilty. Attorney General Josh Shapiro said the investigation is ongoing. The investigation of six of Pennsylvania’s eight dioceses is the most extensive investigation of Catholic clergy abuse by any state. The dioceses represent about 1.7 million Catholics.