On Tuesday, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court released a grand jury report detailing over 300 clergyman accused of misconduct over 70 years, including abuses against at least 1,000 children.
State Attorney General Josh Shapiro said during a press conference that the report shows a “systematic cover-up by senior church officials in Pennsylvania and at the Vatican,” the Washington Post reported.
“The abuse scarred several dioceses,” he said. “The cover-up was sophisticated. All the while church leaders kept record of the abuse and cover-up.”
The disturbing report took 18 months to complete and covers six of eight counties where the dioceses are located in Pennsylvania: Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, Allentown, Scranton, Erie, and Greensburg.
The nearly 1,400-page report says that because of the extensive coverups, many of the alleged perpetrators will not be tried in court or face repercussions. “As a consequence of the coverup, almost every instance of abuse we found is too old to be prosecuted,” the report says. Worse, there are likely thousands of victims, far more than the more than 1,000 identified in the report.
Legal challenges from the clergy led to delays releasing the report, and much of the information is currently redacted, though Shapiro said they will work to remove every redaction.
The grand jury report is just the latest instance of child abuse allegations within the church, as stories around the world have continued to damage its reputation and have called into question Pope Francis’ commitment to tackling the problem.
Members of the church braced for the report prior to its release, with Erie Bishop Lawrence Persico warning in an interview with Pennlive.com that it would be “sobering” and “is rather graphic.”
At least one victim featured in the report, Todd Frey, 50, of Lancaster, PA, says he told church and law enforcement officials of the abuse he suffered when he was 13, but no one did anything.
Nevertheless, authorities in countries around the world are starting to crack down and prosecute church members accused of abuse. “Accountability from inside the church is not happening,” said Anne Barrett Doyle, co-director of BishopAccountability.org, which tracks sexual abuse cases. “But secular society is beginning to affect the most change.”
That being said, also on Tuesday, an Australian court allowed a priest who concealed pedophilia in the church to serve his sentence at home, avoiding jail time for the coverup.