The Vatican on Thursday issued a statement expressing “shame and sorrow” regarding Pennsylvania’s child sex abuse report implicating hundreds of Roman Catholic priests.
“The abuses described in the report are criminal and morally reprehensible,” the brief Vatican statement reads. “Those acts were betrayals of trust that robbed survivors of their dignity and their faith.”
The grand jury report, which states in excess of 300 clergy committed abuse over a period of decades from the mid-1950s, the “real number” of abused children could be “in the thousands,” since numerous records were either lost or victims were afraid to come forward. Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced the two-year investigation found a systematic coverup by senior church officials in both the Keystone State and the Vatican.
When asked for a statement on the bombshell reported, Paloma Ovejero, deputy director of the Vatican’s press office, said on Wednesday: “We have no comment at this time.”
Writing about the shocking report, Breitbart News Editor-at-Large John Nolte asked why Pope Francis was not en route to the United States to meet with Pennsylvania officials and thank them for the report.
“Why isn’t he in Pennsylvania personally thanking this grand jury, personally thanking Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, and calling on the attorney generals in all 50 states to launch similar investigations with the Pope’s personal assurance they will have the full cooperation of the Church?” wrote Nolte.
“The coverup was sophisticated. And all the while, shockingly, church leadership kept records of the abuse and the coverup,” said Shapiro at a press conference in Harrisburg. “These documents, from the dioceses’ own ‘Secret Archives,’ formed the backbone of this investigation.”
A Pennsylvania priest sexually abused five sisters from the same family over a period of a decade. The youngest of the girls was just 18-months-old, according to the report.
Among other explosive findings, the report faulted Cardinal Donald Wuerl, a former longtime bishop of Pittsburgh who now leads the Washington archdiocese, for what it said was his role in the concealment of clergy sexual abuse. Wuerl, one of the highest-profile cardinals in the United States, released a statement Tuesday that said he had “acted with diligence, with concern for the victims and to prevent future acts of abuse.”
A group of current and former clergy named in the report went to court to prevent its release, arguing it violated their constitutional rights to reputation and due process of law. The state Supreme Court said the public had a right to see it, but ruled the names of priests and others who objected to the findings would be blacked out pending a September hearing on their claims. The identities of those clergy members remain under court seal.
A number of dioceses decided to strip the accused of their anonymity ahead of the report and released the names of clergy members who were accused of sexual misconduct. On Friday, the bishop of Pittsburgh’s diocese said a few priests named in the report are still in ministry because the diocese determined allegations against them were unsubstantiated.
Yet, the grand jury report won’t result in justice for the vast majority of those who say they were molested by priests as children. While the probe yielded charges against two clergymen — including a priest who has since pleaded guilty, and another who allegedly forced his accuser to say confession after each sex assault — the other priests identified as perpetrators are either dead or will avoid arrest because their alleged crimes are too old to prosecute under state law.
“We are sick over all the crimes that will go unpunished and uncompensated,” the grand jury said. “We are going to name their names, and describe what they did — both the sex offenders and those who concealed them.”
“[W]e are going to make our recommendations for how the laws should change so that maybe no one will have to conduct another inquiry like this one,” added the state body.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.