Pennsylvania’s Ongoing Church Sex Abuse Scandal – 2018 Update
With the release of a Grand Jury Report by the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office in 2005, the Catholic Church in Pennsylvania has faced enormous scrutiny over decades-long sex abuse of children by priests, teachers, and other church employees. The report revealed a shocking culture of abuse within the Philadelphia Catholic Church whereby dozens of priests sexually abused children. Since then, multiple grand jury investigations followed:
2011: Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office convened a second grand jury, which reported that the culture of abuse was allowed from the very top. As a result of the report, a former Monsignor within the church was arrested and charged with enabling the abuse by simply moving abusive priests from parish to parish. That case, Commonwealth v. Lynn, is still ongoing after a conviction, appeal, and order for a new trial. Currently, the case is tied up in complex legal appeals.
2016: The Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office convened a grand jury to investigate abuse within the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese. That report read something like an exact copy of the reports out of Philadelphia: dozens of priests and other church leaders sexually abused hundreds of children over decades. At least 2 bishops were accused of covering up the allegations.
2016-2018: The Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office began investigating 6 more dioceses in Pennsylvania. The Grand Jury Report was set to be released in 2018. However, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court recently weighed in and has granted a temporary stay.
On June 20, 2018, the court held that the report cannot be released until further litigation. The issue is that individuals who were named in the report have filed petitions to be heard, challenging the issuance of the Grand Jury Report on constitutional grounds. In essence, their argument is that being named in the report, presumably as someone who abused children or allowed abuse to occur, unconstitutionally infringes on their due process rights. This is an argument of first impression in Pennsylvania, which is why the PA Supreme Court granted the temporary stay.
Stay tuned. In the meantime, visit our library for legal info on PA & NJ Sex Abuse Victims’ Rights.