The actual name of Pennsylvania’s grand jury report is the “40th Statewide Investigating Grand Jury REPORT 1 Interim –Redacted.” The complicated name is the result of several of the accused clergy appealing through the courts against the public release of their names. If you have scanned the document, you will see that there are blocked out names and portions; these are the appeals under consideration. It is a small portion of the total amount, however, and the report will be reissued in final form as these cases by determined in civil court. It is my understanding that those clerics named in the present report have been, at the very least, found to have credible evidence of sexual misconduct. The great majority of such priests credibly accused by their diocese did not serve jail time because of the statute of limitations. Failure to report abuse to civil law enforcement by dioceses is a major source of anger driving this grand jury.
The grand jury reports that other investigations into matters of clerical abuse have preceded this one within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania [i.e., Philadelphia 2005 and 2011, and Altoona-Johnstown, 2016]. But the report states that “never on this scale” has the matter of clerical child abuse been investigated, and as we will see below, the FBI assisted in evidential interpretation. The investigation covered 54 of 67 counties in the state, and about 500,000 documents were subpoenaed. About one thousand individual victims were identified and “over 300 priests” were found to have credible allegations against them. I should point out that the grand jury did not discover new perpetrators but culled its list from either public criminal records or documents handed over (or seized) by state investigators.
The report is clear that the grand jury does not believe it has reached an accurate number of victims and perpetrators. “We believe that the real number of children whose records were lost or who were afraid ever to come forward is in the thousands.” This is not hyperbole. As of Tuesday afternoon (today) the calls to the PA attorney general’s hotline now number over 400, and the AG office has had to divert personnel to field each call personally. The report itself expressed regret that it can do little for cases in which the statute of limitations has expired, but it wishes to shine light on each case for the comfort of victims and to prompt reexamination of existing commonwealth law involving sexual abuse of minors.
It would appear, after reading samples of the subpoenaed documents, that the search warrants extended to items stored under the provision of Canon Law 490, the “black box” or “secret archive” of which only the bishop possesses the key. Modern canonists describe this as a provision for the storage of the most delicate matters of a diocese, though these are generally not of a criminal or moral nature, nor do they fit into a box. For example, the laicization papers of all former priests, i.e., the Vatican process of a priest’s return to the lay state, are included, and I imagine my own laicizing records are in the archives described here in my own diocese, which of their nature are particularly confidential given the physical and psychological records attached to them. In the case of criminal investigation, the subpoenas were written for specific priest records and payment settlements (to victims of abuse) subject to strict judicial overview.
As the grand jury’s work came to conclusion, it turned to the FBI’s National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime to assess the evidence collected and offer its general interpretation. This task force concurred with the grand jury that the patterns of diocesan administrative actions across the six dioceses in the discovery of clerical child abuse was so uniform that a clearly discernible profile could be extracted. I included it verbatim here, and it may help readers understand the evidence put forward in the report.
Language quoted verbatim from grand jury report:
The strategies were so common that they were susceptible to behavioral analysis by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. For our benefit, the FBI agreed to assign members of its National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime to review a significant portion of the evidence received by the grand jury. Special agents testified before us that they had identified a series of practices that regularly appeared, in various configurations, in the diocesan files they had analyzed. It's like a playbook for concealing the truth:
(1) First, make sure to use euphemisms rather than real words to describe the sexual assaults in diocese documents. Never say "rape"; say "inappropriate contact" or "boundary issues."
(2) Second, don't conduct genuine investigations with properly trained personnel. Instead, assign fellow clergy members to ask inadequate questions and then make credibility determinations about the colleagues with whom they live and work.
(3) Third, for an appearance of integrity, send priests for "evaluation" at church -run psychiatric treatment centers. Allow these experts to "diagnose" whether the priest was a pedophile, based largely on the priest's "self -reports," and regardless of whether the priest had actually engaged in sexual contact with a child.
(4) Fourth, when a priest does have to be removed, don't say why. Tell his parishioners that he is on "sick leave," or suffering from "nervous exhaustion." Or say nothing at all.
(5) Fifth, even if a priest is raping children, keep providing him housing and living expenses, although he may be using these resources to facilitate more sexual assaults.
(6) Sixth, if a predator's conduct becomes known to the community, don't remove him from the priesthood to ensure that no more children will be victimized. Instead, transfer him to a new location where no one will know he is a child abuser.
(7) Finally and above all, don't tell the police. Child sexual abuse, even short of actual penetration, is and has for all relevant times been a crime. But don't treat it that way; handle it like a personnel matter, "in house.”
End of direct language.
Here at the Café blogsite, it is not necessary to review each of the six dioceses as the report does. Rather my next post will focus upon the grand jury report on the Archdiocese of Pittsburgh. My paternal roots can be found in Butler County, the northern reaches of the diocese and I vacationed there every year in my youth, in the family homestead next to the town’s parish Church. Twelve priests in Butler County were cited in the grand jury report. In my adult years I came to follow the career of Cardinal Donald Wuerl; we are both graduates of Catholic University’s School of Philosophy, though he was six years ahead of me. As a pastor I admired his determination to remove pedophile priests from his diocese, even at the cost of opposition of the Vatican.
And yet today he is the highest-ranking American churchman under scrutiny for his administrative actions during his eighteen-years as Archbishop of Pittsburgh. Last night vandals visited the Pittsburgh Catholic high school that bears his name and defaced his title with red paint.
On My Mind