Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro told NBC’s Today on Tuesday that they have evidence in hand suggesting the Vatican knew of both the sexual abuses committed by priests in Pennsylvania and the ensuing cover-up by Church officials.
“Church leaders would lie to parishioners on Sunday,” Shapiro told Today. “They would lie to the public, they would shield these predators from the public, but they would document all of it and place it in these secret archives, feet away from the bishops.”
I think broader issues here with the Vatican knowing about this… With church leaders knowing about it, and the reaction you’ve seen — not just from Catholics, but from people from across the globe — is a fundamental disappointment and anger in institutions.
We’re seeing institutions, whether it’s Hollywood, universities, government centers, and certainly the church, putting their institutional reputation above the welfare of children. We will not tolerate that in Pennsylvania, and should not tolerate it anywhere.
The Attorney General asserted that investigators had uncovered documents, including handwritten notes, in the Pennsylvania church archives which detailed cases of sexual abuse spanning over 70 years and involving 301 priests and over 1,000 of their victims. Since the publication of the Pennsylvania grand jury report, more than 700 people have contacted the clergy abuse hotline created by his office. He suspects that the victim counts will continue to rise.
“It’s horrifying to think what these men of God did to these children, and then to have the cover-up that was quite literally purposeful to shield priests from law enforcement,” he said.
Shapiro stated that he “can’t speak specifically to Pope Francis[’s]” knowledge of the Pennsylvania abuse cases. However, allegations continue to surface that Pope Francis not only knew about Washington, DC’s archbishop Cardinal Theodore McCarrick’s sexual abuses, but reinstated him into ministry with that knowledge.
Thus far, the pope has refused to comment.
The Pennsylvania grand jury report also accuses Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the current archbishop of Washington, DC, of protecting sexual predator priests while he was bishop of Pittsburgh from 1988 to 2006. One of the most disturbing cases in the report details how Wuerl increased the stipend paid to a priest who abused minors and engaged in child pornography in exchange for the priest’s silence about other sexual predator priests.
Wuerl has also been criticized for claiming that he had no knowledge of his D.C. predecessor Cardinal McCarrick’s decades of alleged sexual abuse of seminarians, priests, and laypeople. This despite a report that Wuerl was informed by a high-ranking Vatican official that Pope Benedict imposed sanctions on McCarrick for sexual abuse. Shortly after this alleged discussion, Wuerl cancelled an event McCarrick was scheduled to host for young men contemplating a vocation to the priesthood.