More than 300 “predator priests” from six Catholic dioceses across eastern U.S. have been accused of sexually abusing over 1,000 children, according to a new grand jury report.
The report, issued by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, detailed a “systematic cover-up by senior church officials in Pennsylvania and at the Vatican” over more than six decades, State Attorney General Josh Shapiro said at a news conference on Tuesday.
Shapiro said that over 1,000 children victims were identifiable from the church’s own records, and the grand jury believes there are more after about two years of investigation. “We believe that the real number – of children whose records were lost, or who were afraid ever to come forward – is in the thousands,” read the grand jury report introduction. According to the report, some predator priests even manufactured child pornography. In a diocese, one victim was forced to stand on a bed in a parish rectory in front of the reverends.
Todd Frey, 50, who said he was abused when he was 13 by a priest in Lancaster County, northern Pennsylvania, spoke to the grand jury on Monday. He said he had told church and law enforcement officials over the years, but nothing was done. “Who else did he pick?” Frey was quoted as speaking before the grand jury, adding that the report will be his first opportunity to see if the priest is accused of abusing others, and who in the church knew.
Church leaders in these Catholic dioceses were more interested in safeguarding the church and the “predator priests” than helping their victims, the redacted report said.
“The main thing was not to help children, but to avoid scandal,” the report said. “Priests were raping little boys and girls and the men of God who were responsible for them not only did nothing: They hid it all.” “Several diocesan administrators, including the bishops, often dissuaded victims from reporting abuse to police, pressured law enforcement to terminate or avoid an investigation or conducted their own deficient.—Agencies