STATE IMPACT PENNSYLVANIA – The Pennsylvania Supreme Court is expected to release a redacted version of a 900-page grand jury investigation into widespread allegations of child sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priests and clergy in the state as early as Wednesday afternoon or as late as Tuesday, Aug. 14.
The report, lead by the Pennsylvania Attorney General, is the result of a nearly two-year investigation that probes back seven decades and identifies more than 300 “predator priests” in six of eight dioceses.
Initially expected to be released in June, the findings have been held up in legal proceedings and have been challenged by a group of mostly clergy members who say there’s false or misleading information in the report that could damage their reputations.
This week’s release of the investigation will be highly redacted for two reasons. The grand jury chose to protect the victims and witnesses who came forward to testify about the abuse. And the court decided that the identities of the accused who are challenging the accuracy of the report should be given further due process before being named.
The court will hear oral arguments from the challengers and from the Attorney General over these individual cases in September.
Meanwhile, some dioceses under investigation have decided to disclose the names of priests and former employees who have allegations against them of either child abuse or failing to stop abuse when it was reported to them.
In April, the Diocese of Erie was the first of the six dioceses to release a list of priests, teachers, employees and a Bishop who have been banned from working with children based on allegations the diocese believes to be credible. That list has since been updated and includes 67 individuals — living, deceased, and currently under investigation.
“I want to express my sincere sorrow and apologies for the sexual abuse that has occurred within the church,” Erie Bishop Lawrence Persico said at a news conference in April. “I have met with victims and listened to the pain they and their loved ones experienced. It is appalling to learn what they went through — abuse is traumatic enough — but it’s earth shattering when it is perpetrated by someone who is in a position of trust.”
Last week, Bishop Ronald Gainer, head of the Diocese of Harrisburg, followed suit. He published a letter that named 71 priests and seminarians who have been accused of child sexual abuse, inappropriate behavior, or inappropriate communication with children. One more name has been added since then.
“The list is a list of accusations, ” Gainer said at the Aug. 1 news conference. “We did not make assessments of credibility or guilt in creating this list.”
He also ordered the names of every bishop since 1947 — the date the grand jury’s investigation begins — to be removed from any building, facility or room in the diocese. He said the same for any person accused of sexual abuse of a child.
“This investigation has caused the diocese to take a frank look at its past as well as its present, ” Grainer said.
Grainer said he originally planned to publish the list in 2016, but was asked to “stand down” by the Attorney General because of the then ongoing investigation.
The Dioceses of Allentown, Scranton, and Pittsburgh have all said they plan to disclose their own lists of priests and members of the church who have been credibly accused of child sexual abuse when the report is publicly released.
The Diocese of Greensburg said it has fully cooperated with the investigation and publicly supports the release of the report with due process. But it is not releasing a list of names who have been accused at this time.
Judy Jones, a regional leader at the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, says victims who testified before the grand jury have waited a long time for the report to come out and the dioceses’ lists are long overdue.
“They should have released the names years ago. They’re doing this because they’re under pressure to do it and appear to be good when the Attorney General’s grand jury report is going to come out and expose them anyway,” Jones said.
Disclosure: Keystone Crossroads’ lead station, WHYY, and several other media organizations have been petitioning the court for disclosure of the report.