Nearly 600 priests, lay people have been publicly named in Pa. sex abuse scandal
The 2018 grand jury identified 301 priests who had sexually assaulted and abused hundreds of children over the past several decades. As large as that number is, the true scope is much higher.
Last year’s grand jury report has been the largest in scale, covering six of the state’s eight dioceses — including the ones based in Greensburg and Pittsburgh — and identifying 1,000 victims. But it was just the latest in a string of Pennsylvania investigations dating back 15 years.
Following the explosive investigation of the Boston Archdiocese, former Philadelphia District Attorney Lynn Abraham sat a grand jury in 2003 that produced two reports on priest sex abuse in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Her successor, Seth Williams, followed up with his own grand jury report in 2011.
In 2016, former state Attorney General Kathleen Kane uncovered hundreds of child sex abuse cases in the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese, naming roughly 50 abusers.
Each of the reports identified a systemic cover-up of priests who sexually abused children.
Since the 2018 investigation, Pennsylvania’s dioceses and religious orders — including the Jesuits and the Benedictines at Saint Vincent Archabbey in Unity — have released their own lists. Catholic dioceses across the U.S. also have followed suit with lists of publicly accused clergy and lay people.
A review of Pennsylvania’s grand jury reports, media reports and diocesan and religious order disclosures — as well as lists maintained by BishopAccountability.org, which has tracked the crisis since 2004 — shows 592 publicly accused clergy and lay people in Pennsylvania.
Here is the breakdown of the publicly accused by diocese:
Victim advocates said the tally was staggering and yet not surprising.
“I think the number has real force,” said Marci Hamilton, founder and CEO of the Philadelphia-based Child USA, a nonprofit formed in 2016 dedicated to preventing child abuse. She also was involved in Philadelphia’s 2005 grand jury report.
Hamilton added, “What you’re doing is you are explaining how many dangerous priests were in the system. Parents have desperately wanted to know that.”
Both Hamilton and Thomas P. Doyle, a canon lawyer and priest who served as a consultant for Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s grand jury, said the grand juries they assisted identified more perpetrators than reported.
Given this, advocates expect the number of accused to climb.
“Any time you have a problem, before you set out to fix it and understand it, you need to know its size,” said Adam Horowitz, a Florida attorney who represents sexual abuse victims in Pennsylvania.
Horowitz added, “As big as the numbers are, I believe that there are more that we may never know.”