'Predator priests' accused of sexually abusing more than 1,000 children

'Predator priests' accused of sexually abusing more than 1,000 children

The grand jury said it was able to identify more than 1,000 mostly male child victims, but expected there were thousands more because of lost records and victims who have not come forward. James Porter, a MA priest who went to jail for molesting dozens of children, was ordered to seek retreat at St. Joseph's Abbey in 1967, as Fall River Bishop James L. Connolly told him he could no longer function as a priest in the diocese. "As the grand jury report demonstrates, they have experienced cruel behavior by the very individuals who should have had the greatest interest in protecting them".

An 884-page report made public by Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro after a two-year investigation contained graphic examples of children being groomed and sexually abused by clergymen.

One 7-year-old girl told the grand jury she was raped by her priest, who was visiting her in the hospital after she'd had her tonsils out.

Another boy was repeatedly raped from ages 13 to 15 by a priest who bore down so hard on the boy's back that it caused severe spine injuries.

In a similar case, a 1989 psychiatric evaluation concluded that Thomas O'Donnell did not have a problem, even though parents had complained that the priest made children strip naked to get weighed at a school gym, made a child sleep with him while on a trip and talked about sex with a child. Priests gave the boy and others gold cross necklaces to mark them as being "groomed" for abuse. The effort resulted in criminal charges against several members of the church.

The report details the abuse experienced over decades by hundreds of children. "And all the while, shockingly, church leadership kept records of the abuse and the cover-up", Shapiro said at a news conference.

Richard Zula, who was among a group of priests to use "whips, violence and sadism in raping their victims", according to the report, was sent to Institute of Living, a mental health center in Hartford, Connecticut, in 1987.

Most of the victims were boys and many were pre-pubescent, some manipulated with alcohol or pornography, the report said.

The investigation has helped renew a crisis that many in the church thought and hoped had ended almost 20 years ago after a church scandal erupted in Boston. On the other hand, Bishop Donald Trautman, the former bishop of Erie, was accused of knowingly covering up crimes from civil authorities and the families of victims, while disclosing the truth to Vatican authorities.

Two of the names were redacted.

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'We are sick over all the crimes that will go unpunished and uncompensated, ' the grand jury said. First, it will encourage other states to look at their statutes of limitation.

Nearly half of those accused priests served in churches in northeastern and central Pennsylvania.

One priest named in the report pleaded guilty last month to charges that he sexually abused a 10-year-old boy more than 20 years ago.

Those suggestions include eliminating the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse cases and giving the victims included in this report a two-year window to file civil cases against the church.

The report did single out Cardinal Donald Wuerl, former bishop of Pittsburgh, saying he approved transfers for abusive priests instead of removing them from the ministry, oversaw inadequate church investigations and concealed information when priests were reported to law enforcement.

Dozens of church superiors were also named as complicit. Many bishops, including future-Cardinal, the late Anthony Bevilaqua, were accused of continuing priests they knew to be unsafe to children in active ministry. The archdiocese of Philadelphia and the diocese of Altoona-Johnstown were subjects of an earlier report.

He says in a statement Tuesday that he "acted with diligence, with concern for the victims and to prevent future acts of abuse".

Since the abuse crisis became public in the 2000s, the United States church has spent more than $3 billion in settlements, according to Bishop Accountability. Before its release, some urged that the report be read keeping in mind that a lot has changed in the church since then, and also that not all of the report's claims are substantiated.

"Imagine if they did what was done in Pennsylvania, but nationwide", he said, but noted that the problem needs to be solved by the Vatican.

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