Grand jury report identifies hundreds of 'predator priests' in six Pa. Catholic dioceses
© Thinkstock

A grand jury report examining six out of the eight Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania details more than 1,000 instances of sexual abuse allegedly committed by hundreds of Catholic priests in the state.

The report, issued Tuesday by a grand jury that listened to testimony from victims and met for two years, identifies more than 300 members of the Catholic Church in Pennsylvania who allegedly committed acts of sexual abuse that were covered up by church officials.

ADVERTISEMENT

Many of the more than 1,000 victims were persuaded to drop their allegations of sexual abuse or were ignored by church officials, according to the report, which adds that the church also worked to have investigations dropped by local law enforcement agencies.

“Despite some institutional reform, individual leaders of the church have largely escaped public accountability. Priests were raping little boys and girls, and the men of God who were responsible for them not only did nothing; they hid it all. For decades,” the report reads.

"Monsignors, auxiliary bishops, bishops, archbishops, cardinals have mostly been protected; many, including some named in this report, have been promoted. Until that changes, we think it is too early to close the book on the Catholic Church sex scandal," it adds.

About 25 percent of Pennsylvanians identify as Catholic.

Specific instances of alleged abuse are detailed in the report, including the case of one priest who allegedly impregnated a 17-year-old girl, forged a signature on a marriage certificate from his head pastor, and then divorced the girl several months later.

Hundreds of names are identified in the report, although some have been redacted pending legal challenges from the accused clergymen. The grand jury concluded that more predators likely escaped its search due to incomplete church records and the difficulty in persuading abuse victims to share their accounts.

"We should emphasize that, while the list of priests is long, we don't think we got them all. We feel certain that many victims never came forward, and that the dioceses did not create written records every single time they heard something about abuse," the report states.

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.

The Philadelphia District Attorney's office first released a grand jury report detailing allegations against more than 100 priests in 2005, which criticized the Philadelphia diocese for allegedly protecting priests from accusations of sexual abuse.

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. The effort resulted in criminal charges against several members of the church. A third report in 2016 found more allegations dating back decades in a second diocese, Altoona-Johnstown.

The report released Tuesday comes on the heels of Pope Francis accepting the resignation of the former archbishop of Washington D.C., Theodore McCarrick, following his own accusations of sexual abuse.

The pope reauthorized a Vatican commission on the Catholic Church's sex abuse scandal earlier this year.

Updated: 4:15 p.m.