The Vatican issued a statement Thursday, two days after a scathing 1,350-page report was released by a Pennsylvania grand jury that revealed years of alleged sexual abuse among 300 Catholic priests in six of the state’s eight dioceses.
The report states there are at least a thousand children who were victimized by priests across the state for decades. Those victims “should know that the Pope is on their side. Those who have suffered are his priority, and the Church wants to listen to them to root out this tragic horror that destroys the lives of the innocent,” the statement from Vatican Spokesperson Greg Burke said.
The grand jury said it subpoenaed and reviewed half a million pages of internal diocesan documents, which contained “credible allegations” against the hundreds of alleged predator priests in the dioceses of Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh and Scranton.
“The Holy See treats with great seriousness the work of the Investigating Grand Jury of Pennsylvania and the lengthy Interim Report it has produced. The Holy See condemns unequivocally the sexual abuse of minors. The abuses described in the report are criminal and morally reprehensible. Those acts were betrayals of trust that robbed survivors of their dignity and their faith. The Church must learn hard lessons from its past, and there should be accountability for both abusers and those who permitted abuse to occur,” the statement said.
The grand jury alleges thousands of child victims were manipulated by priests, often with alcohol or pornography. In many cases they were raped, and in nearly every case they were brushed aside by church leaders “who preferred to protect the abusers and their institution above all,” the grand jury report states.
The bulk of the report, which has been described as the “biggest and most exhaustive ever” investigation into priest sex abuse by an individual state, covers events that occurred before the early 2000s. And even though there are 300 priests named, the grand jury notes: “We should emphasize that, while the list of priests is long, we don’t think we got them all.”
The Vatican’s statement says “continued reform and vigilance at all levels” among the church has led to a reduction in abuse.
“By finding almost no cases after 2002, the Grand Jury’s conclusions are consistent with previous studies showing the Catholic Church reforms in the United States drastically reduced the incidence of clerical sexual abuse. The Holy See encourages continued reform and vigilance at all levels of the Catholic Church. The Holy See also wants to underscore the need to comply with the civil law, including mandatory child abuse reporting requirements,” the statement said.
“The Holy Father understands well how much these crimes can shake the faith and spirit of believers and reiterates the call to make every effort to create a safe environment for minors and vulnerable adults in the Church and in all of society.”
Click here for more details on the contents of the report.
(Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images)
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