Facade of St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome, Author Alessio Nastro Siniscalchi (CC BY-SA 2.5 Italy)
WARNING: Graphic Images
Pennsylvania Attorney General, Josh Shapiro, this week released the results of what may be the most comprehensive state investigation into child sexual abuse and cover-up by the Roman Catholic Church in the nation’s history [1A].
Examining over 70 years of church records, the grand jury investigation identified 301 predator priests, and more than 1000 child victims, across six dioceses (Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh and Scranton). Sexual abuse by priests was earlier uncovered in two other Pennsylvania dioceses (Philadelphia and Altoona).
The Catholic Church sex scandal first began to surface in the 1980s . A seminal investigation by the Boston Globe in 2002 led to the criminal prosecution of five predator priests .
Subsequent investigations revealed a widespread pattern of abuse across the United States and the globe, with an institutional cover-up extending to the Vatican. Despite complaints, predator priests were moved seamlessly from parish to parish, and allowed to continue in ministry, sometimes for decades.
As Shapiro expressed it:
“Church officials routinely and purposefully described the abuse as horseplay and wrestling and inappropriate conduct. It was none of those things. It was child sexual abuse, including rape [1B].”
Some 17,000 victims have come forward in the US. Papal apologies and new protocols have done little to correct the situation.
Victims were primarily boys. However, girls were victimized, as well. One 9 y.o. had his mouth washed out with holy water after oral sex . Another victim was 18 months of age, and still in diapers.
Along with oral sex, abuse included groping, forced masturbation, vaginal and anal penetration.
When complaints were made to church hierarchy, victims were accused of fabricating lies (or seduction, if pregnancy resulted).