A report by Pennsylvania Attorney General, Josh Shapiro has exposed how Roman Catholic priests sexually abused thousands of children within a 70-year period, and how the cases were systematically covered-up by their bishops.
The 884 page report revealed that victims who are mostly children were silenced through “the weaponization of faith”.
The report which was made public on Tuesday after a two-year investigation according to Reuters contained graphic examples of children being groomed and sexually abused by clergymen. It was largely based on documents from secret archives kept by the dioceses, including handwritten confessions by priests, he said.
“It was child sexual abuse, including rape, committed by grown men – priests – against children,” Shapiro told a press conference.
The attorney general said it was the most comprehensive report on Catholic clergy sex abuse in American history, nearly two decades after an expose of widespread abuse and cover-up in Boston that rocked the Roman Catholic church.
Several of the dioceses issued statements apologizing to victims and saying they were taking steps to ensure any criminal behaviour was stopped.
“The grand jury has challenged us as a Catholic diocese to put victims first and to continue to improve ways to protect children and youth,” Bishop Lawrence Persico of the Erie Diocese said in a statement.
“The pattern was abuse, deny and cover up,” Shapiro said, adding that church officials sought to keep abuse allegations quiet long enough so they could no longer be prosecuted under Pennsylvania’s statute of limitations.
“Priests were raping little boys and girls,” Shapiro said. “They hid it all for decades.”