Vatican issues response to Pennsylvania priest abuse investigation

Cardinal Donald Wuerl the former longtime bishop of Pittsburgh who now leads the Washington archdiocese in 2015

"The abuses described in the report are criminal and morally reprehensible". Some Catholics anxious that the Pope's ability to serve as a moral witness for the world could be compromised should he fail to act decisively.

Over the years the sexual abuse scandal has taken a heavy toll on the U.S. Catholic Church, driving down attendance and donations and leading to the closure of parishes as the Church paid out hundreds of millions of dollars in settlements.

The USCCB said it would expand third-party reporting mechanisms that already exist in some dioceses for victims of abuse.

The Irish Times reports that Father Patrick McCafferty urged the Pope not to come to Ireland during a sermon to his west Belfast congregation.

The panel concluded that a succession of Catholic bishops and other diocesan leaders tried to shield the church from bad publicity and financial liability by covering up abuse, failing to report accused clergy to police and discouraging victims from going to law enforcement.

The US report is thought to be the single most comprehensive report to date into abuse in the US church, since The Boston Globe first exposed paedophile priests in MA in 2002.

At times, the lengthy catalog of clergy sexual abuses in the report is hard to read.

Some victims were plied with alcohol and groped or molested while others were raped.

The grand jurors said that "almost every instance of abuse we found is too old to be prosecuted".

The grand jury report documented how pedophile priests were often protected by church hierarchy or moved to other postings without congregants being told of the priests' sexual predatory history.


In his statement, Burke noted that nearly all of the abuse discussed in the report happened decades ago, and very few cases have been presented since the sex abuse crisis of 2002.

"The Holy See encourages continued reform and vigilance at all levels of the Catholic church, to help ensure the protection of minors and vulnerable adults from harm".

In recent years, the USA bishops have adopted widespread reforms, including mandatory criminal background checks for priests and lay employees, a requirement that abuse allegations be reported to law enforcement, the suspension of priests while they are being investigated, and permanent removal from ministry when accusations are substantiated.

The Vatican said Francis was "on the side" of victims following recent revelations that 301 "predator priests" operated in the USA state of Pennsylvania over the last seven decades, in many cases having their crimes covered up by the Church.

In a statement, it said the Church wanted to listen to the victims to "root out this tragic horror".

By church law, only the Pope can discipline or remove bishops.

Pope Francis himself was not quoted in the statement, and the Church did not address calls for the resignation of the archbishop of Washington, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, whose role in the cover-up was detailed in the report.

The group said it would create a new way for victims of sexual abuse by members of the clergy to report allegations, and for those claims to be investigated without interference by the bishops who oversee priests who are accused of sex abuse. Still, jurors' allegations that senior church officials covered up sex abuse has sent shock waves through Catholic communities across the country.

"This is a moral catastrophe", said DiNardo. "It is also part of this catastrophe that so many faithful priests who are pursuing holiness and serving with integrity are tainted by this failure".

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