[A scathing 1,400-page report](https://www.pennlive.com/news/2018/08/grand_jury_report_clergy_sex_a.html released last week by Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro details a decades-old conspiracy and cover-up by the Catholic Church to protect hundreds of predatory priests who for years raped and sodomized more than 1,000 boys and girls. Officials warn that the number of victims is likely to climb. The report was compiled by a grand jury panel that investigated six dioceses in Pa. over the span of 18 months. Investigators reviewed millions of secret church documents and heard the testimonies of dozens of victims.

My name is Ivey DeJesus. I’m a reporter at PennLive.com and the Patriot-News, where I and my colleagues been covering this story extensively. You can read some of our coverage over here. I’ll be here from 11 a.m. to noon EST to answer any questions on the topic you might have.

Proof: https://i.redd.it/4sfx6h4dzhg11.jpg

Comments: 1644 • Responses: 32  • Date: 

InsideJobDuh1195 karma

In your opinion was/is the Vatican fully aware of the abuse and let it go on? Is it seen as as dirty little secret that they rather turn their back to? I always thought there was rings within that did this and used the church as a shield.

pennlive1669 karma

The report determined that at times the cover-up of abuse stretched all the way to the Vatican. And how could it not. Only the pope can laicize priests, so previous reports delivered to the Vatican regarding credibly accused priests went unanswered, presumably. Pope Francis a few days ago, in responding to the report, noted that the conclusions of the grand jury report are consistent with studies showing that Catholic Church reforms in the United States have drastically reduced the culture of clergy child abuse. The majority of cases outlined in the report concern abuses before the early 2000s.

pennlive1147 karma

One more thing: Cardinals hold one of the most senior offices in the Catholic Church. They elect popes. Two former Pennsylvania bishops achieved that rank in recent times. Does it not seem fair to expect cardinals to ensure this topic is front and center of discourse in the private halls of the Vatican?

bumpkinblumpkin403 karma

The same exact cover up was found in Philadelphia years prior. Why has it taken so long to publish the finding for the rest of the state?

pennlive398 karma

The investigation into the Archdiocese of Philadelphia wrapped up in 2011. In 2016, the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General delivered the findings into an investigation into child sex crimes in the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown. At the time, the state launched this broader investigation into the six remaining dioceses. This latest one took almost two years to complete. I think the grand jury process can move only so fast. The jurors don't meet like other juries. They meet only a few times a month....it's a long process; not to mention the actual investigation. Investigators pored through millions of church documents.

kent_eh155 karma

the same cover-up has been found all over the planet.

pennlive372 karma

Sadly yes. It's a worldwide scandal. Child sex crimes happen in every institution - collegiate sports, youth groups, public schools, etc. The scandal in the Catholic Church has been particularly stunning bec. of the systemic cover-up. Finally, we are seeing senior officials prosecuted and convicted, though, so the tide is definitely turning.

JimSand356 karma

What’s the defense argument? Not guilty, they didn’t do it or will they claim that they did but it was isolated incidents and no coverup?

pennlive572 karma

This was a grand jury investigation. Unlike trial juries, the grand jury does not decide guilt or innocence. Instead, it is asked by prosecutors to determine whether there is enough evidence in a case to recommend that charges be filed. PennLive's Charlie Thompson did a great primer on this: https://www.pennlive.com/news/2018/08/what_is_a_grand_jury.html


Has any evidence presented itself that may hint toward exactly how widespread the abuse was/is? Not only how far from Pennsylvania is this taking place, but also for how long? "Decades long" gives us some indication, but i assume it has been going on for longer than I care to imagine. Meaning, there is a chance that a man, his children, and his grandchildren have all been abused by the same person/people, which is absolutely disgusting to think about.

Basically, we all know it's been going on forever. We also know it's been going on everywhere. But is there enough evidence so that the church will finally be held responsible?

pennlive532 karma

Clergy sex abuse has been uncovered just about everywhere there is a Catholic community - from Ireland, to Boston, Chile, Honduras.....you name it. Law enforcement can go after single officials - as is happening in Australia....but I argue that it's going to take a groundswell of outrage and massive action from the faithful to hold the church accountable for anything to change.

boxrthehorse204 karma

Did you get to interact with any of the abusers? Where they remorseful or did they have some wierd justification?

pennlive391 karma

In the past I have reached priests credibly accused by phone. They have refused to comment or have hung up the phone. I have interviewed previous bishops on the matter, and without exception, all had vowed that no predatory priest was in ministry, etc. I interviewed the late Bishop Joseph McFadden extensively. He was an auxiliary bishop in Philadelphia for some years and worked closely with at least two archbishops there. McFadden always vowed that he had had not idea about the systemic abuse uncovered in Philadelphia. Did I believe him?......

cap10wow179 karma

Scrantonian here. Do you think these predators will get justice?

pennlive315 karma

Most victims point to the recommendations made by the grand jury to answer this question.

  • Eliminating the statute of limitations for the sexual abuse of children. Current law now permits victims to come forward until they're 50 years old.
  • Creating a "civil window" so that older victims can sue for damages in civil court. Current law gives victims 12 years, from age 18, to sue for damages. But victims aged 30 and older fall under a different law, and only get two years. The window would offer an additional two years to those older victims.
  • Clarifying the penalties for the continuing failure to report child abuse by amending current law requiring someone to report abuse "while the person knows, or has reasonable cause to believe," the abuser is likely to commit additional acts of child abuse.
  • Specifying that civil confidentiality agreements do not include communications with law enforcement. 

somepapist158 karma

Hi Ivey, if you can’t tell by my username, I’m a faithful Catholic. I am absolutely livid that these abuses occurred and went unaddressed. It’s difficult to fathom a more disgusting betrayal of the church than a shepherd preying on his flock.

I am still beginning to digest all of the news reports, and I intend to read some of the source grand jury report. I am hoping you can untangle a few questions for me:

  1. Was there evidence presented that the abuses are ongoing (ie after the policy changes in the 00’s)?

  2. Is there any misreporting that is worth calling out?

  3. Are there any clergy in active ministry that we’re clearly complicit in covering up the abuses? (I intend to review any names and push for their resignations if necessary.)

  4. I’m hearing conflicting reports about Cardinal Weurl’s actions. Is there a particular report that you can link to that summarizes the points of view most cogently?

pennlive87 karma

Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington is certainly inside the eye of the storm, if you ask me. Wuerl was mentioned about 200 times — some of them critically — in the grand jury report. {He was bishop of Pittsburgh from 1988 to 2006.) In the wake of the report, Wuerl issued a statement saying he "acted with diligence, with concern for the victims and to prevent future acts of abuse. I sincerely hope that a just assessment of my actions, past and present, and my continuing commitment to the protection of children will dispel any notions otherwise made by this report."

Chamein67145 karma

In your opinion what would be am appropriate response by Pope Francis in order to restore faith in the catholic church?

pennlive347 karma

On a personal note, I am a Catholic. This has been tough. Pope Francis said that he is on the side of victims....those who have suffered. I've been reporting on this for years. I hear the same thing. I don't know if that is enough. Again, this is on a personal level -- and has nothing to do w. the views of PennLive.

Pr1mew1nd115 karma

How closely do you work with the Catholic church, are they cooperative with reporters and investigators at this stage, or are they still trying to cover it up?

pennlive228 karma

The answer is two-fold: Some local dioceses have been forthcoming with granting access to reporters. Others not so much. In general, the information given at time can be quite "canned." I personally have been disappointed with the level of engagement from the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference; the Apostolic Nuncio {multiple attempts to reach him have gone unanswered}; as well as the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. ....Alas, the beauty of a grand jury investigation is that is can compel the production of documents, testimony etc. I think they were quite thorough.

bigigantic54110 karma

The pope said in his statement that they improved child protection measures since a wave of scandals in 2002. He also says most of these cases belong to "the past".

Are there any records that back this up, that most of the incidents occurred around or before 2002?

pennlive132 karma

The majority of cases outlined in the report date prior to 2002. Studies have also shown that the bulk of clergy sex abuse in this country happened between the 1960s to sometime in the 1980s. Not sure if any studies have taken a closer look at why that is.....is there a correlation to something happening in the C.Church?

Bathroom_Pninja104 karma

How many of these (accused, convicted, or dead) rapist priests were turned in by their superiors?

pennlive148 karma

Too few.

dkalt4292 karma

Is there a statute of limitations on rape in PA? Can these offenders still be prosecuted?

pennlive151 karma

500Republica is correct. One priest has been convicted and another one indicted on felonies as a result of the grand jury investigation. For now, the vast majority of cases outlined in the report are outside the bounds of statute of limitations - meaning they have all expired. Advocates are working to reform the laws; in particular, to put in place a retroactive clause that would give victims who have been timed out of the system a chance to bring predators to court. Here's a piece on that: http://www.pennlive.com/news/2018/05/mounting_sex_abuse_scandals_ma.html

fuzzyshorts90 karma

I was watching Democracy Now with a former victim of a pedophile priest. He believes that Philly is but one example and that he fully expects there to be 49 more grand juries (one in every state of America) because the problem is that big. Do you think this is true?

The interview: https://www.democracynow.org/2018/8/16/this_church_is_a_criminal_enterprise

pennlive141 karma

We've already seen investigations into dioceses and archdioceses across the country - notably Boston, but certainly Los Angeles, New York, Delaware....New Hampshire..the list goes on and on and continues to grow. Pennsylvania has been particularly aggressive in this matter: Jerry Sandusky, Bill Cosby, Solebury, Archdiocese of Philadelphia, Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown..now this grand jury report. It's only a matter of time before the vast majority of states follow suit.

veive61 karma

Is this exclusive to the Catholic church, or are other denominations impacted as well?

pennlive106 karma

Child sex abuse happens across Protestant and evangelical churches - and, at times, at a higher rate. 

An investigation by The Associated Press recently found three insurance companies in the United States that provide liability coverage for 165,000 Protestant churches typically receive 260 reports every year of children being sexually abused by Protestant clergy or other staff.

In 2013, Boz Tchividjian, a Liberty University law professor, said the Christian mission field is a "magnet" for sexual abusers. 

Here is a link to a story I did this year:https://www.pennlive.com/expo/erry-2018/05/5e56fa19a94444/child_sex_crimes_catholic_prie.html

mustardaphasia58 karma

What was the most shocking you personally discovered in the grand jury report?

pennlive131 karma

The narratives were near-identical to what we saw out of Boston, Philadelphia, Ireland, etc.

The cover-up and the inaction by church officials never cease to stun.

panzan37 karma

Why should anyone believe that priests won’t keep raping children? The Spotlight report came out early 2002. It’s 2018 and allegations are STILL coming out.

pennlive64 karma

But these are mostly historic accusations. Catholic officials now report that all allegations of child sex crimes are immediately turned over to law enforcement. I like to think that with the power of social media at our disposal....that most students, parents, etc...feel some sense of empowerment. Maybe that's being naive.....

Schmibitar31 karma

Are people you're talking to genuinely surprised by this?

pennlive41 karma

I get the sense there is shock as the widespread aspect of it - the systemic aspect.

Yhellow29 karma

Have you received any push back from the Vatican, or local law enforcement about covering this story?

pennlive50 karma

No. I can't say I have.

With regards to the Vatican specifically: I've had no luck getting the Apostolic Nuncio to return my requests for interviews. He is the papal ambassador to this country.

Thisismyreddddditnam25 karma

Is sex abuse in the Catholic Church in Pennsylvania ongoing?

pennlive55 karma

Attorney General Josh Shapiro stressed that the investigation is ongoing and urged victims or anyone who knew of child sex crimes to contact a new hotline established for victims to report abuse by clergy: 888-538-8541.

BillyMac81424 karma

Did you read all 1400 pages?

pennlive29 karma

Not yet!

Iamtevya19 karma

What, if anything, is the church doing to help the victims of abuse?

This kind of trauma leaves lifelong scars on people. While seeing the perpetrators punished is satisfying and helps prevent future harm, those harmed need help to heal.

pennlive48 karma

The majority of victims I have spoken to keep returning to the importance of reforming the law. That is what will ultimately allow them to completely heal. For many therapy hasn't worked. And the church has provided for that - for therapy and counseling. But almost all victims say the church could help them most by working to ensure that the statute of limitations is reformed so they can seek justice.

It's a tough road ahead. We've seen it before here in Pennsylvania. Reform is bogged down between the ongoing argument of the constitutionality of tougher reforms and the deep-seated opposition to that reform from the church and Pennsylvania's insurance industry.

BeliefsoverTruth18 karma

Are you Catholic?

pennlive24 karma

As I mentioned above: yes. It's been a difficult assignment in many ways.

pennlive14 karma

Good conversation everyone. I have to step away for now....but I will jump back in later today and answer a few more.

Skarlake4713 karma

What is the likelihood that all or most of those involved in the act and the cover up will be facing jail time?

pennlive29 karma

A lot of these bishops (and priests) are dead. But some are, indeed, very alive: Wuerl, Rhoades, etc......Remains to be seen. It merits note that senior church officials are facing courts of law and convictions: at a minute scale. But it's a start.

U1TR413 karma

knowing that this is religion and thus doubly a sensitive topic, do you think there will actually be any real backlash? with just the PA clergy or the Pope?

pennlive23 karma

The human species has an interesting relationship with faith/religion. Catholic Churches were filled on Wednesday morning for Mass; as well as Friday here in Harrisburg for a Mass of Penance.

MrGrego11 karma

Where the victims from one area of Pennsylvania or evenly spread across the state?

pennlive19 karma

Six of the state's eight Catholic dioceses - Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, Allentown, Scranton, Erie and Greensburg - were investigated. Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown and Archdiocese of Philadelphia had previously been investigated. So, yes: statewide.

zephyrjk456 karma

Given the evidence, do you think this... evil behavior is something that could easily be being covered up in other dioceses? It went on for so long and arguably was propagated and protected by the church. I can't imagine it is a PA-only thing.

pennlive14 karma

We know it's not just Pa. It's worldwide.

filbertsnuts5 karma

At what point do we have to start treating specific diocese as criminal conspiracies engaged in an attempt to subvert justice? The scale of specific diocese involvement in crime, like Boston or Pittsburgh, is mind blowing.

pennlive5 karma

Alas, numerous priests were removed in Philadelphia, but Monsignor William Lynn remains the highest-ranking U.S. Catholic Church official to be convicted in a child sex abuse scandal.

His original child-endangerment conviction has been overturned. He faces retrial.