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Tuesday, September 4, 2018

300 priests accused of pedophilia in Pennsylvania

Por Nina

The most extensive investigation to date of pedophilia cases in the US Catholic Church. It offers a frightening scenario: more than 1,000 children have been sexually abused by more than 300 Catholic priests in Pennsylvania over the past seven decades. In addition, the Catholic hierarchy tried to hide the cases of pedophilia in their organization, which could be many more that have come to light. They are the main conclusions of a report prepared by a jury for 18 months and that this Tuesday published the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. It was introduced by state attorney general Josh Shapiro, who said the report portrays "a systematic cover-up by the ecclesiastical authorities in Pennsylvania and the Vatican."

Six of the eight dioceses of the state were investigated. The other two had been the subject of a similar report before. Almost a quarter of the population of Pennsylvania is declared Catholic, which makes it one of the states with the largest presence of this confession, in a country with a Protestant majority. In the investigation there are chilling cases.

A priest from the diocese of Erie violated anally and orally at least fifteen children, the youngest of them, seven years old; later, the bishop congratulated him on the progress he had made in controlling his "addiction." In Greensburg, another religious left a 17-year-old girl pregnant; he forged a signature for the marriage certificate and after months he divorced her; none of that meant his expulsion from the priesthood. A priest from the Diocese of Harrisburg abused five sisters from the same family, and collected their urine, pubic hair and menstrual blood samples. Another priest in Pittsburg admitted sado-masochistic encounters with several boys, but the authorities defended him because they were not extreme and were not "psychotic."

According to the report, when the cases surfaced or were reported by the victims, the response of the ecclesiastical authorities always followed the same pattern: using euphemisms to refer to the abuses - "rape" was never said, but "inappropriate contact" -; not establish appropriate investigations; not explain why a priest was removed from his fate, when he committed abuses; give material support to abusers, despite being denounced; when the crimes were known, transfer the priest to another destination, instead of expelling him from the Church; and, first of all, never tell the police. The prosecution reviewed half a million pages of documents from diocesan archives to find more than a thousand cases of sexual abuse.

"We believe that the real number, with minors whose documents have been lost or who were afraid to denounce, is in several thousands," the report says. The possibility of these abuses being substantiated by criminal means is minimal. The statute of limitations for crimes in Pennsylvania leaves out the vast majority of cases. Only two priests have been sentenced by criminal procedure in Pennsylvania for crimes of this type. After hearing the report, several bishops of the state promised that they would continue their effort to avoid abuses and recognize those that occurred in the past, after several pedophilia scandals shook the Church in recent decades, inside and outside the US.

"The Erie diocese will not cover abusers in secret, no matter who they are or how long the abuses happened," said Bishop Lawrence Persico. "We recognize the abuses of the past and commit ourselves to be more transparent with our decisions for the future." However, Shapiro said several religious authorities cited in the report have pressed for months to block its publication.

The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference has also strongly opposed efforts to change the statute of limitations for these crimes, something the report recommends and which state lawmakers are still unwilling to review. The scandal comes a few weeks after one of the leading figures of the Catholic Church in the US, Theodore McCarrick, cardinal and former archbishop of Washington, had to leave his post at the College of Cardinals for accusations of abuse of seminarians and young priests. McCarrick made progress in the ecclesiastical hierarchy despite the warnings to his superiors in the United States and in the Vatican about his abuses. A situation that also repeated itself in Pennsylvania.

The jury explained that to elaborate this document it investigated and listened to the testimony of dozens of witnesses and reviewed half a million pages of internal documents of the different dioceses for almost two years. As a result, the judicial authorities considered it to be the most extensive investigation carried out so far by a governmental agency in the United States on child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. According to the research and advocacy group previously, other grand juries investigated more than a dozen cases of abuse, but they were dioceses or counties in particular and did not reach the dimensions of the current report.