Pittsburgh Local 15 August 2018
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The long-awaited state grand jury report into sexual abuse in six Pennsylvania dioceses, including Pittsburgh and Greensburg, has finally been released.
The 884-page document, two years in the making, shines a light into the dark corners of these dioceses going back seven decades, exposing the predators and the efforts of their bishops to protect them.
The 886-page report contains hundreds of examples of horrifying abuse. All were disturbing but some were particularly troubling. They include;
- A priest who forced a boy to wash his mouth out with holy water after making him perform oral sex
- A priest who raped a seven-year-old girl while visiting her in hospital after she’d had her tonsils removed
- A ring of pedophiles who whipped little boys and allowed other men to rape them for a fee
- Another priest, grooming his middle school students for oral sex, taught them how Mary had to ‘bite off the cord’ and ‘lick’ Jesus clean after he was born
- Priests who had children were gold crosses to mark which of them had been abused
- A priest who went to work at Walt Disney World, with a glowing recommendation letter from the church, after quitting over complaints about him abusing children [Disney has a culture of Paedophilia]
Others, when questioned over their behavior, said ‘anything is possible’.
One, who targeted young boys, denied molesting two little girls by telling the church: ‘They don’t have a penis.’
“Today, the most comprehensive report on child sexual abuse within the church ever produced in our country was released,” Attorney General Josh Shapiro said. “Pennsylvanians can finally learn the extent of sexual abuse in these dioceses.
For the first time, we can all begin to understand the systematic cover up by church leaders that followed. The abuse scarred every diocese. The cover up was sophisticated. The church protected the institution at all costs.”
The report begins with the following statement:
“We, the members of this grand jury, need you to hear this. We know some of you have head some of it before. There have been other reports about child sex abuse within the Catholic Church. But never on this scale. For many of us, those earlier stories happened someplace else, someplace away. Now we know the truth: it happened everywhere.”
The report cites 301 priests, clergy and lay teachers with credible allegations against them. There are 99 in the Diocese of Pittsburgh alone.
Of those 99, a group of four priests groomed and violently sexually assaulted young boys, said Shapiro.
“One boy was forced to stand on a bed in a rectory, strip naked and pose as Christ on the cross for the priests. They took photos of their victim, adding them to a collection of child pornography which they produced and shared on church grounds,” Shapiro said.
Shapiro said the priests would mark their victims by giving them gifts.
“To make it easier to target their victims, the priests gave their favored boys gifts – gold crosses to wear as necklaces. The crosses were markings of which boys had been groomed for abuse,” Shapiro said.
Because of an on-going legal battle, more than a dozen names and identifying information have been redacted. But the report shows a consistent pattern of bishops having prior knowledge of the actions of these predatory priests, reassigning them and not alerting law enforcement.
Shapiro said his office is not satisfied with the release of the redacted report. Shapiro said each one of those redactions represents a story of abuse that deserves to be told. He went on to say that he will fight to reveal the names currently redacted in the report.
The report states:
“All victims were brushed aside, in every part of the state, by church leaders who preferred to protect the abusers and their institution above all. The main thing was not to help children, but to avoid scandal.”
“Priests were raping little boys and girls and the men of God who were responsible for them not only did nothing: they hid it all.”
“Diocesan administrators, including the Bishops, had knowledge of this conduct and yet priests were regularly placed in ministry after the Diocese was on notice that a complaint of child sexual abuse had been made. This conduct enabled offenders and endangered the welfare of children.”
In addition, the report says administrators and Bishops “often dissuaded victims from reporting abuse to police, pressured law enforcement to terminate or avoid an investigation, or conducted their own deficient, biased investigations without reporting crimes against children to the proper authorities.”
“Above all else, they protected their institution at all cost,” Shapiro said.
The report includes some priests who stood trial and were convicted of sexual assault. In the Diocese of Pittsburgh, they include: Father Robert Wolk of St. Thomas More in Bethel Park; Father Richard Zula of Saints Mary and Ann in Marianna, Washington County, and Father Richard Dorsch, convicted of sexually assaulting a 13-year-old boy in North Park.
Until now, the Pittsburgh Diocese had been considered a leader in those reforms since now Cardinal, then bishop, Donald Wuerl defied the Vatican back in 1993 by refusing to reassign pedophile priest Anthony Cipolla. Wuerl was a leader in formulating policies to protect children, but in the report, his record here also comes under fire.
Cardinal Wuerl responded to the allegations in a statement saying:
“As I have made clear throughout my more than 30 years as a bishop, the sexual abuse of children by some members of the Catholic Church is a terrible tragedy, and the Church can never express enough our deep sorrow and contrition for the abuse, and for the failure to respond promptly and completely. While I understand this Report may be critical of some of my actions, I believe the Report confirms that I acted with diligence, with concern for the victims and to prevent future acts of abuse. I sincerely hope that a just assessment of my actions, past and present, and my continuing commitment to the protection of children will dispel any notions otherwise made by this report.”
- Greensburg Diocese Issues Apology, Will Release Names Of Clergy Accused Of Sex Abuse
- Grand Jury Report On Sexual Abuse In Six Pennsylvania Diocese Delayed Again
- Stories Of Abuse Surfacing Ahead Of Grand Jury Report On Sexual Abuse In Six Pennsylvania Diocese
- ‘It’s Going To Be Tough’: Bishop David Zubik Tries To Prepare Parishioners For Grand Jury Report Release
- Bishop Zubik To Release List Of Diocese Of Pittsburgh Clergy Members Accused Of Sexual Abuse
- Grand Jury Report: Pa. Catholic Church Leaders Pressured Victims, Cops Over Abuse
- Retired Greensburg Diocese Priest Pleads Guilty In Child Sex Assault Case
Just last week, current Pittsburgh Bishop David Zubik warned the faithful that the report would be graphic and disturbing.
“I’m concerned about our people that they may be scandalized and tempted to turn their backs on God,” Zubik told KDKA.
In a letter read at Sunday mass, Bishop Zubik also said 90 percent of the cases involved incidents that occurred before 1990 and that the church has instituted safeguards and reforms to identify and weed out the abusers. He said no priest or deacon with a credible allegation against them is in active ministry today.
The real scandal is the abuse was aided and abetted by the hierarchy that protected reputation & money over children’
State Rep. Mark Rozzi, D-Berks
“I really felt it was important, the letter, to get people ready for the report because it’s going to be tough, and at the same time, to realize the decisions that the Diocese of Pittsburgh makes today are far different than what would have been made over the course of the last 10, 20 years,” Zubik said.
As for the Diocese of Greensburg, the grand jury named 20 priests in the report.
“One priest, Fr. Raymond Lukac, impregnated a 17-year-old girl, forged another pastor’s signature on a marriage certificate then divorced the girl shortly after she gave birth. Despite having sex with a minor, fathering a child and being married and divorced, Fr. Lukac was allowed to stay in ministry while the diocese sought a benevolent bishop in another state willing to take the predator, hiding him from justice,” Shapiro said.
According to Shapiro, coverups by the church were done in an attempt to run out the clock on the statute of limitations.
“The grand jury detailed that the coverups by the church served a key purpose – the longer they covered up abuses, the less chance that law enforcement could prosecute predator priests because the statute of limitations would run out,” Shapiro said.
While most of the cases are old and the clergy accused are retired or deceased, just two weeks ago Shapiro announced that Father Tomas Sweeney of the Greensburg Diocese had pled guilty to indecent assault.
“There can be no doubt that Father Sweeney is a predator priest,” Shapiro said.
In Erie, Fr. David Poulson was also charged with the abuse of an 8-year-old boy over the course of eight years.
Grand Jury Reform Recommendations
As part of the report, the grand jury has recommended four changes be made to Pennsylvania law:
1. Eliminate the criminal statute of limitations for sexually abusing children
“This grand jury exists because Pennsylvania dioceses routinely hid reports of child sex crimes while the statutes of limitations for those crimes expired. We just do not understand why that should be allowed to happen. If child abusers knew they could never become immune for their crimes by outrunning the statute of limitations, maybe there would be less child abuse.”
2. Create a two-year “civil window for child sex abuse victims who couldn’t file lawsuits before.
“Victims don’t just need sex criminals prosecuted; they need care and compensation for harm done by the abusers and the institutions that empowered them. The way you get that is by suing. We understand that civil cases are different than criminal prosecutions, and that it’s appropriate to have a statute of limitation that prohibits lawsuits after a certain amount of time. We’re OK with a time limit for lawsuits, as long as it’s a long time limit, and Pennsylvania’s is pretty good – until the victim reaches age 30, which is longer than in most other states.
The problem is that this law doesn’t apply to most of our victims. It’s only been in effect for about 15 years, and most of the victims from before then were under a much tighter time limit for suing – only two years. But even that two-year limit was something of a sham. Until not too long ago, the church was actively and systematically concealing clergy sex abuse. Victims didn’t know if their attackers had a history of abuse, and they didn’t know the diocese had been enabling that abuse. You can’t very well exercise your right to sue when the people responsible are doing their best to cover up.”
3. Clarify the penalties for a continuing failure to report child abuse.
“Reporting child abusers isn’t just a moral obligation; it’s the law. We can’t pass laws telling the church how to administer its internal operations – but we can demand that it inform authorities about rapists and molesters. Unfortunately, document after document told us the same story: church officials repeatedly received word of crimes against kids, yet repeatedly refused to alert law enforcement.”
4. Prohibit “non-disclosure” agreements regarding cooperation with law enforcement.
“We also think it’s time to tackle an issue that hasn’t been mentioned in prior grand jury investigations of clergy sex abuse. We’ve heard the reports over the last year about the use of confidentiality agreements to make sexual harassment suits go away. We can tell you that it doesn’t just happen to women in the workplace; we’ve seen the same tactic used by the dioceses to hush up child sex abuse in the church. In the rare case where a child was able to report abuse within the statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit, the bishops would avoid “scandal” by paying off the family to keep quiet.”
Playbook for concealment
The FBI’s National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime – the division within the bureau that provides profiles of violent criminals, among other things – reviewed much of the evidence received by the grand jury and concluded that its analysis of the material revealed something akin to “a playbook for concealing the truth.”
Special agents from the F.B.I.’s National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime reviewed evidence collected by the grand jury, the report says, and identified a series of practices that were regularly used by the six dioceses to cover up reports of abuse.
“While each church district had its idiosyncrasies, the pattern was pretty much the same,” the report says. “The main thing was not to help children, but to avoid ‘scandal.’ That is not our word, but theirs; it appears over and over again in the documents we recovered.”
First, they reported, the church employed euphemisms for sexual assault, referring to the crime not as rape, but as “inappropriate contact” or “boundary issues.” In one case, the grand jury reported, a priest’s repeated and violent sexual assaults of children were referred to as “his difficulties.”
Second, the church did not conduct genuine investigations, often limited to just asking suspected abusers a few questions and accepting what they said as gospel.
Third; And if a priest had to be removed from his church, they were directed to announce it as “sick leave,” or to not say anything at all. For appearance sake, they were to send the priest for “evaluation” at a church-run psychiatric facility that, more often than not, concluded that the offender was not a pedophile and could return to ministering the faithful.
Fourth, If it became known in the community that a priest was a “problem,” they were to transfer him to another parish where nobody knew he was a child molester. That happened frequently, the grand jury reported. One priest was transferred from Allentown to New Mexico and west Texas after accusations of abuse came to light. He was later arrested in Briscoe County, Texas, for molesting a boy, one of his numerous victims he found in his new location.
Fifth, even if a priest is raping children, keep providing him housing and living expenses, although he may be using these resources to facilitate more sexual assaults.
And, finally, church officials were told: don’t call the cops. “Handle it like a personnel matter, ‘in house,’” the grand jury reported.
There were several instances reported by the grand jury in which sexual abuse was reported to local police or prosecutors by victims or their parents. Few of those cases wound up being prosecuted.
In one case, a police officer wrote a letter to the church, suggesting that it do something about a certain priest before there was violence. In another, former Beaver County District Attorney Robert Masters wrote a letter to the bishop for Pittsburgh’s diocese to report that he would not be investigating accusations against a priest “in order to prevent unfavorable publicity.”
And when all else fails, lie.
In the case of Smith, he did have something to worry about.
After the Boston Globe’s groundbreaking reports on the abuse scandal were published in 2002, the families of some of Smith’s victims sued him and the church, making the accusations that Smith had raped children and that the church helped cover it up.
On March 15, 2002, in response to a query from the press, the bishop said, “We have no priest or deacon or layperson that I know of that has, in any way, a pedophile background.”
In November 2004, responding to public pressure, Trautman wrote to the Vatican to ask that Smith be removed from the priesthood, which the Vatican did in 2006.
The announcement of Smith’s removal from the priesthood was simple.
“Dismissed from the clerical state on June 10, 2006 by Pope Benedict XVI,” it said. “Nothing else need be noted.”
There is help available for victims of abuse.
The first is the Attorney General’s Hotline at 1-888-538-8541. You can call that number if you or someone you know is a survivor of abuse in the church.
The second is the number for SNAP, a survivors’ network, at 1-877-762-7432.
And if you are aware of ongoing child abuse anywhere in Pennsylvania, you are urged to call ChildLine at 1-800-932-0313.