Pennsylvania SNAP Leaders Share Reflections One Year after PA Grand Jury Report

The one-year anniversary of the scathing grand jury report on six Pennsylvania Catholic dioceses is fast approaching. The report triggered tremendous strides on a horrifying topic that was once never discussed. Since Aug 14, 2018, when Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro released the 884-page findings, more than a dozen states’ attorneys general have since launched their own probes into clergy sex abuse cases and set up dedicated phone numbers for victims. Here in Pennsylvania, more than 1,400 new calls have been received by the Attorney General’s hotline. This speaks volumes to the tremendous amount of effort that is going into exposing the perpetrators and those who shielded them. 

The aftermath from the grand jury report also saw a federal criminal probe introduced. Last October, federal prosecutors issued subpoenas to all eight Roman Catholic dioceses and the two Eastern Catholic archeparchies in Pennsylvania, seeking years of internal Church records. Authorities have yet to release any details of that investigation. However, it is fair to say that very few people have not heard of the details contained in the grand jury report. 

Some survivors have had validation simply by seeing their abuser named or affirmed in reparation programs. Many have for the first time come forward with their personal stories and attended SNAP support group meetings. We have seen power taken back by survivors, as the momentum to become part of a huge movement takes shape. Even with all these positives, there is a lot of work that still remains. The four recommendations in the grand jury report were simply stated and ignored by the key Senate members in Pennsylvania. The Catholic church continues to fall short of zero transparency. Some may say the entire world responded to the release of the report — except for Pennsylvania itself and the church

An examination of the diocesan websites in Pennsylvania reveals a trove of information where the dioceses lay out the various steps they have taken in response to the grand jury report. Those steps include releasing the names of accused priests, creating new executive-level curial positions responsible for abuse prevention programs, answering the faithful’s questions in public listening sessions, as well as reaffirming their dedication to zero-tolerance policies and meeting with victims. However, we remain skeptical simply because of the abysmal record held by the hierarchy in past self-policing. 

  • 301 Catholic priests identified as “predator priests” who sexually abused children while serving in active ministry in the Church.
  • Detailed accounts of over 1,000 children victimized sexually by these men, with the grand jury noting it believed the real number of victims was in the “thousands.”
  • Senior church officials, including bishops, monsignors and others, who knew about the abuse committed by priests, but routinely covered it up to avoid scandal, criminal charges against the clerics, and monetary damages to the dioceses.
  • Priests committed acts of sexual abuse upon children and were routinely shuttled to other parishes — while parishioners were left unaware of sexual predators in their midst.

State Senate leaders in Pennsylvania should support legislation that would expand the state’s civil statute of limitation bill with a window to justice. A bill to amend the statute of limitations passed the Pennsylvania House of Representatives last September but subsequently died in the state Senate. SNAP Leadership, survivors, advocates and many groups, including Pennsylvanians United to Protect Children, have vowed to hold abusers and those who protect them accountable through speaking the truth and advocating for protections written into our laws that provide survivors with justice!

CONTACT: Michael McDonnell (SNAP Leader Philadelphia) 267.261.0578 mcdo1268@gmail.com, Mary McHale (SNAP Leader Reading) 610.914.8446 youngertwin@hotmail.com, Shaun Dougherty (SNAP Leader Johnstown) 814.341.8386 Shaun@crescentgrill.com, Karen Zehr (SNAP Leader Lansdale) 215.518.7065 zehrhead@gmail.com  

(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)

 


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