By Joy Allmond
After hearing stories of sexual abuse victims for more than two years, a grand jury reported 300 priests in six Pennsylvania Catholic dioceses have been credibly accused of sexually abusing more than 1,000 children.
According to the 23-person member jury, church officials on many levels—including bishops, archbishops, and cardinals—molested and raped boys and girls, and were protected by insiders.
“There have been other reports about child sex abuse within the Catholic Church. But never on this scale,” the grand jurors wrote.
According to the report, children ranging from 18 months to 17 years old from the Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, and Scranton dioceses were victimized.
“But all of them were brushed aside, in every part of the state, by church leaders who preferred to protect the abusers and their institution above all,” the report says.
In one instance, a ring of predatory priests in the Pittsburgh diocese “shared intelligence or information regarding victims,” according to the report.
They are also said to have created pornography using the children, and traded the victims within their group.
Almost every instance of abuse found in the 900-page report is too old to be prosecuted. But these reports can serve as reminder to all churches of the need to do background checks on all leaders—especially adults who work with children.
As of 2016, almost half of the background checks requested by churches through LifeWay’s program with backgroundchecks.com reveals some type of past criminal offense.
However, regardless of how much time has passed since an offense, attorney Kimberlee Norris—co-founder of MinistrySafe—says it’s never too late to call the police.
“Reporting, even years or decades later—and perhaps in a state where the criminal statute of limitations has passed—puts the alleged perpetrator into the system,” she told Facts & Trends in a recent interview.
“When subsequent reports against the same individual are made, law enforcement may take the earlier report into account.”
And the cases from the Catholic church dioceses—along with the recent stories within evangelical churches—have reinforced the need for leaders to implement systems within their congregations to prevent sexual abuse and equip parents to protect their children.
JOY ALLMOND (@joyallmond) is managing editor of Facts & Trends.