Grand jury report on clergy sex abuse: What you need to know ahead of its release
The long-awaited grand jury report into clergy sex abuse in Pennsylvania is poised to be released on Tuesday. PennLive will provide complete coverage of its release.
By order from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, the Commonwealth has until 2 p.m. tomorrow to release the report.
The report is widely expected to be one of the most scathing and comprehensive investigations into the worldwide scandal embroiling the 1.2-billion strong church.
Here is a quick primer on what we know so far about the report:
- The office of state Attorney General Josh Shapiro empaneled the grand jury in 2016 to investigate allegations of child sex crimes across six of the state's eight Catholic dioceses, including: Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, Allentown, Scranton, Erie and Greensburg.
- The grand jury, which completed its investigation in April, produced a 900-plus page report that names more than 300 members of the clergy by name in connection to criminal sex crimes against children.
- The report remains under a court seal, but portions that have been unsealed thus far by the high court show that state investigators found that church leaders were more interested in preventing scandal than protecting children.
- In some cases, the report shows, church leaders discouraged victims from going to police or pressuring law enforcement officials to end or avoid investigations, according to a court filing.
- Over the past month or so, the report has been tied up in court amid legal efforts on the part of more than two dozen members of the clergy seeking to have their names redacted from the report.
- Ahead of the report, the dioceses of Harrisburg and Erie have released lists of names of clergy accused of sexual abuse of children.
- Harrisburg Bishop Ronald Gainer released the names of 72 priestswho have been historically accused of child sex crimes. Gainer also has taken the unprecedented step of ordering the removal of the names of all of his predecessors from any diocesan property. Gainer said his predecessors dating back to 1947 had failed to protect children from predators.
- Erie Bishop Lawrence Persico has taken similar measures. He has published the list of 62 credibly accused clergy, including one of his predecessors, Bishop Alfred M. Watson.
- Former Erie Bishop Donald Trautman, who served from 1990 to 2012, has dropped his legal challenge to the report.
- To date, two priests have been arrested - one of them convicted - as a result of the investigation. Greensburg priest John T. Sweeney, of St. Margaret Mary in Lower Burrell, has pleaded guilty to charges that he sexually abused a 10-year-old boy in the early 1990s.
- David Poulson, a priest from the Diocese of Erie, has been charged with child sex crime, including felonies. Poulson has been arrested and forced to resign as pastor by Erie Bishop Lawrence Persico.
- Last week, the Diocese of Greensburg announced the removal of the Rev. James W. Clark from his ministry post amid allegations dating back 50 years.
- Senior Judge John M. Cleland, of the Court of Common Pleas of McKean County, has been appointed the special master on the ongoing legal challenges to the grand jury report. Cleland, who once presided over the Jerry Sandusky criminal case, has been tasked with determining how much of the findings are redacted.
- Although the 900-plus page report is scheduled to be released no later than Tuesday, portions of the report referring to the clergy who have filed court challenges that their names be removed from the report will remain redacted. The high court will hold hearings to consider their arguments.
50 State AG Call for Grand Jury
Any investigation must be:
- independent of and separate from the church
- must have subpoena powers and ability to compel testimony under oath
Anything short of these criteria is a sham and whitewash.
In addition, write letters to the editor, make phone calls to politicians as they can apply pressure to keep them responsive to our demand. We need to make efforts to ensure that they follow up on what the state is doing to investigate these crimes.
Note to Letter Writers
Use your own words and style of writing. Cut and paste from the templates as you wish. Include your experiences, whether as a survivor or as a member of the community. And relate your letter to the state you were abused in or state now living in.