In 2005, after a 2 year investigation, a specially convened Grand Jury in Philadelphia issued a report detailing rampant child molestation by priests in the Philadelphia Archdiocese. According to the report, dozens of priests subjected hundreds of children to varying degrees of sexual abuse, from rape to exposure to pornography.
The report further indicated that administrators, including Cardinals, failed to prevent the abuse and engaged in a cover-up; recycling pedophile priests to unsuspecting parishes where they had continued access to children. In the report, specific cases of sexual abuse are discussed. Some children, as young as ten, were raped; one young girl was impregnated by a priest who took her to get an abortion; one child was severely beaten when he tried to tell his father about his brother’s sexual abuse at the hands of a priest; one child who was repeatedly raped by a priest remains in a mental institution. These examples highlight how pedophile priests gained the trust of parishioners and then violated their children in the most horrific ways.
While the Grand Jury was conducting its investigation, which started in 2003, the Philadelphia Archdiocese began conducting what appeared to be a major clean up. In 2004, 2005 and 2006, dozens of priests were removed from ministry or had their ministerial duties restricted due to “credible allegations of sexual abuse of a minor.”
- 18 priests have been permanently restricted, the bulk of activity occurring in 2004 (the majority of the priests have accepted a life of prayer and penance).
- 3 priests are pending canonical process (as of the date of this post).
- Beginning in 2002, 24 priests were laicized/defrocked, the bulk of activity occurred in 2005 and 2006.
- 23 priests have died over the last 4 decades.
When you add up the numbers, a whopping 42 priests have been restricted or defrocked due to credible allegations of sexual abuse. Another 23 priests with credible allegations of sexual abuse against them have died. The grand total is 65, and that does not include all of the priests who were investigated over the last year.
The problem of priest sex abuse within the church is not just an isolated scandal, but a widespread and pervasive epidemic.
In 2011, another Grand Jury in Philadelphia was convened to investigate additional acts of sex abuse. In that report, the Grand Jury stated, “The present grand jury, however, is frustrated to report that much has not changed.”