On Tuesday, Aug. 14, the Pennsylvania grand jury released a 1,356-page report that shined light on a long-kept secret in the Catholic Church. The report revealed the thousands of children that were sexualized and abused by about 300 priests.
According to the report, the cases ranged from rape to molestation. The majority of children assaulted were pre-pubescent boys, with some cases including women as well.
Despite the priest, the county, or the victim one thing was consistent— the church’s ability to keep these cases a secret.
In one case highlighted by the report, a priest of the Diocese of Greensburg used religious teachings about Mary and Jesus to convince his young parishioners into performing oral sex.
Another priest from the same area impregnated a 17-year-old girl, forged a marriage license and then divorced her months later. Despite these actions, the priest was allowed to stay in the ministry in another state.
The outcomes of each case are also similar. The ministry made it their mission to keep all instances of sexual abuse inside the church. They avoided the use of the word “rape” in order to avoid the law. The police were never contacted, and even when a priest confessed the church continued to keep them in the ministry.
According to the report, these priests found to be pedophilic were put through psychiatric care in order to “correct” their behavior. However, these treatments were directed by the church and incredibly lax, leaving many of the priests unchanged.
In the few instances where the priests were forced to leave the ministry, they were given letters of recommendation and other resources to help them find work. However, the majority of the priests were unharmed, if not completely supported, by their diocese and the ministry.
The children were rarely heard. As the report states, the survivors were left to deal with the trauma of being raped before attending middle school.
Many of the survivors turned to addictive substances to cope, which further harmed or killed them. As the report states, many of the victims have died before their voices could be heard. Many of the victims were unaware that they could press charges against their assailants as it was kept secret and even normalized.
Now they are being heard. The grand jury report explains each of the survivors’ cases in detail, exposing the priest’s actions and the ministry’s active complicity in these horrific cases.