'Predator priests' accused of sexually abusing more than 1,000 children


A long-awaited grand jury report examining clergy sex abuse in Pennsylvania was released Tuesday, and it lists more than 300 "predator priests" accused of abusing more than 1,000 child victims over a period of seven decades.

In the news conference, Shapiro described allegations of a priest who physically molested a group of children by telling them he was doing a "cancer check", one who he said "impregnated" a girl, others who had boys strike a religious pose naked to take pictures of them.

Publication of the 884-page report followed a two-year investigation into abuses in six dioceses in Pennsylvania and victims wept as details were revealed at a press conference.

Bishop Zubik said he supported all four of the attorney general's proposal, including the recommendation to do away with statutes of limitations for the sexual abuse of minors.

That report led to a second grand jury investigation in 2011 to determine whether the Philadelphia diocese had updated its practices and stopped protecting accused clergymen.

"We can't charge most of the culprits", the report states. However, the grand jury did find two priests who sexually assaulted children in the last decade. Shapiro said the investigation is ongoing.

But not all: Shapiro said priests in Greensburg and Erie, Pa., are now facing charges of abusing children in the state; one of the priests pleaded guilty earlier this year.

"It was none of those things".

Almost 100 of the accused clergy are from the Pittsburgh diocese alone, where Donald Wuerl, the current cardinal of Washington, D.C., was the bishop for 18 years.

Winters agreed, "Of all the bishops mentioned in this report, Wuerl was the one who understood just how wrong this was, before the others".

The report released Tuesday is the result of a more than decade-long effort from Pennsylvania authorities to look into claims of sexual abuse from church officials in the state.

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US bishops have acknowledged that more than 17,000 people nationwide have reported being molested by priests and others in the church.

One priest admitted to molesting boys, but denied reports of abusing girls, the grand jury said, because "they don't have a penis". Some were raped orally, some vaginally, some anally. Another priest forced a 9-year-old boy into having oral sex, then rinsed out the boy's mouth with holy water. The report also chronicles how the church used an array of tactics to hide the abuse, including lying to the community about why a priest was removed from the parish, transferring pedophile priests rather than firing them, and locking abuse complaints away in a "secret archive".

He said that the church had used the "weaponization of faith" to silence victims: "They allowed priests to remain active for as long as 40 years". And all the while, shockingly, church leadership kept records of the abuse and the cover-up. The pictures were added to a collection of child pornography and shared on church grounds.

The panel concluded that a succession of Catholic bishops and other diocesan leaders tried to shield the church from bad publicity and financial liability by covering up abuse, failing to report accused clergy to police and discouraging victims from going to law enforcement.

Sexual abuse scandals have rocked the Roman Catholic Church for decades, not just in the USA but throughout the world.

The document, totalling over 900 pages, relates to the USA state of Pennsylvania and claims hundreds of priests were guilty of a string of horrifying sexual abuses dating as far back as the 1950's, all allegedly covered up by the Catholic church.

Wuerl headed the Pittsburgh diocese from 1988 until 2006, when he replaced now-disgraced former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick in the nation's capital.

The two-year investigation by a grand jury into all but two Pennsylvania dioceses turned up dozens of witnesses and half a million pages of church records containing "credible allegations against over three hundred predator priests".

The Pittsburgh diocese said a few priests are still in ministry because the diocese determined allegations against them were unsubstantiated. On multiple occasions, Pennsylvania priests would take their victims out of town with the goal of disorienting them.

Some 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 findings were made public by Attorney General Josh Shapiro.