HARRISBURG, Pa. (CNS) — The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled July 27 it will allow the release of a redacted version of a grand jury report on a months-long investigation into sexual abuse claims in six Pennsylvania dioceses, some of which go back decades.
In June the court had put a hold on the full report being released because it said it needed to review challenges filed by “many individuals” named in the report.
“A number of the petitioners asserted that they were not aware of, or allowed to appear at, the proceedings before the grand jury,” the court said in its five-page opinion issued July 23.
On July 27 the court said the report will be edited to protect the identities of those challenging its release and the redacted version can be made available to the public as early as Aug. 8 and no later than Aug. 14.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, whose office conducted the investigation into claims in the dioceses of Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, Allentown, Scranton, Erie and Greensburg, praised the court for its ruling but said in a statement that he will continue to fight to ensure that “every single victim is heard” and church officials “are held accountable.”
Two days earlier Shapiro wrote to Pope Francis July 25 asking for his help in getting the full grand jury report released to the public.
Shapiro’s office planned to issue the report at the end of June, but its release was challenged in court. On June 5, Supervising Judge Norman A. Krumenacker III of the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas denied the petitioners. He ruled “in favor of the commonwealth and victims that our brief should be made public,” Shapiro said in response to the ruling.
The petitioners appealed and the case went to the state Supreme Court, which then led to the temporary hold on release of the full report.
In his letter to Pope Francis, Shapiro recalled the 30-minute meeting the pontiff had with a group of survivors of sexual abuse in Philadelphia at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary Sept. 27, 2015, during his U.S. pastoral visit. The group included three women and two men abused by members of the clergy or their families or their teachers.
Afterward Pope Francis told cardinals, bishops, priests and seminarians gathered at the seminary that he was overwhelmed by a sense of embarrassment and was committed to holding accountable those who harmed children.
“I continue to feel an overwhelming sense of embarrassment because of those who had in their care the little ones and caused them great harm,” he said. “I am deeply sorry. God cries.”
The crimes and sin of sexual abuse of children can no longer remain secret,” the pope said. He “committed the close vigilance of the church to protect the children, and I promise that all responsible will be held accountable.”
Shapiro wrote, “Your Holiness I respectfully request that you direct church leaders to follow the path you charted at the seminary and abandon their destructive efforts to silence the survivors. Instead please call on them to “follow the path of truth’ you laid out and permit the healing process to begin.”
The attorney general was among the city and state officials who welcome the pope to Philadelphia, where the World Meeting of Families took place. The international gathering coincided with the papal trip.
Shapiro told the pope that after the seminary meeting, “I was moved by your words, your compassion and your commitment.”
“You pledged to ‘follow the path of truth wherever it may lead. Clergy and bishops will be held accountable when they abuse or faith to protect children,'” Shapiro wrote. “Sadly, some of the clergy leading the church in Pennsylvania have failed to head your words.”
He said his office’s investigation “found widespread sexual abuse of children and a systematic cover-up by leaders of the Catholic Church.”
Shapiro claims that actions to hold up release of the findings are an effort to “silence the victims and avoid accountability.”
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