“They hid everything”

Abuse scandal in the church © N.N.

It's the most comprehensive collection of abuse allegations in the U.S. Catholic Church: investigators in Pennsylvania have compiled the alleged acts of more than 300 priests over 70 years. Church leadership allegedly covered up much.

Investigators in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania have uncovered shocking details about the extent of sexual abuse and its cover-up in the U.S. Catholic Church. Authorities accuse more than 300 named Catholic priests of being guilty of child sexual abuse – up to and including rape. "Although the list of priests is long – we don't think we got them all," Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said.

Still, he said, this is the most comprehensive report on child abuse within the church ever published in the U.S. It comes more than 15 years after in Boston the events around the priest John Geoghan had caused a scandal in public. There, too, it had come out that the church leadership had tried to keep the events under wraps as far as possible, under massive cover-up actions.

The archbishop of Washington and former bishop of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania, Donald Wuerl, had already warned in a letter to clergy on Monday that the report would be "fundamentally frightening". "The report will be a reminder of grave transgressions that the Church must acknowledge and for which she must ask forgiveness," the archbishop's letter said. However, he disputed the narrative that the church did nothing to address the incidents. He himself had gone to Rome and successfully prevented the reinstatement of a priest, the current archbishop wrote. At the same time, measures have been taken to protect victims and help those affected.

"The church has protected its institutions"

The allegations cover a 70-year period and the territory of six of the eight dioceses in the state of Pennsylvania. Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who unveiled the results of the investigation so far Tuesday in a nearly 900-page report, estimates thousands of victims were involved. He believes many of them would not have come forward. About 1000 have been identified. "Priests raped little boys and girls and the men of God who would have been responsible for them not only did nothing – they hid it all," the report states. "The Church has protected its institutions – whatever the cost," the paper continues.

Shapiro spoke of a "decades-long cover-up"" by senior church leaders in Pennsylvania and as far away as the Vatican. This has led to the fact that hardly any of the cases can still be prosecuted today – almost all of the acts are statute-barred. Offending priests were routinely transferred to other parishes, he said. Parishioners had not been informed, he said.

The report emphasizes that much has changed in the church in the U.S. in the past 15 years. Dioceses would have assisted in drafting the report. At the same time, he said, measures were also taken to protect victims and help those affected.

Secret files from the dioceses

In one case, a priest groped boys under the pretext of taking a "cancer test," according to a press release from judicial authorities. In the diocese of Pittsburgh, a group of four priests had jointly molested boys – one of whom they allegedly forced to ame the pose of Jesus naked on the cross in a rectory. According to the report, priests raped and impregnated young girls. In one case, an abortion had been arranged. The bishop in charge had subsequently expressed sympathy – not with the victim, but with the priest. "It must be a very difficult time for you."

Also contributing to the report were half a million documents that had previously been kept under lock and key in diocesan secret archives. Pennsylvania investigators used legal prere to gain access. Several of the identified clergy had objected to the publication of their names, delaying the report's publication. In total, more than 400 priests are under suspicion.

Among them, according to Shapiro, are high-ranking church officials. Just a few weeks ago, Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington, and also placed him under house arrest amid prere from abuse allegations.

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