Editorial: What happens now with church abuse
It’s been a year.
One year since Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro released the grand jury report that detailed 70 years of children being abused — first when their bodies were touched and then again when their pain was denied.
Pennsylvanians and Catholics experienced the shock and shame of finding that the churches and schools that are so woven into the fabric of our lives and landscapes have been the sanctuary of generations of predators.
And that was the beginning.
What came next?
Lawyer Thomas P. Doyle is not just a consultant working with other states the way he worked with Pennsylvania’s grand jury. He is a former priest. He understands the church inside out. He calls what happened here “a catalyst for other states.”
“They’re realizing after Pennsylvania did what they did, is it can be done,” he told the Tribune- Review.
The volume of information — things like abused boys identified with gold crosses and a girl tricked into a sham marriage — attracted world attention. It didn’t just release horrible details. It showed the symmetry of how diocese after diocese followed a pattern of concealment that was nearly as ritualized as a rosary.
The church has taken steps to atone. The penance has been public — stripping the names of former bishops like Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C.’s Cardinal Donald Wuerl and the late Greensburg Bishop William Connare from buildings. There have been compensation funds established to handle claims from victims.
Those payouts are less public. The Pittsburgh Diocese fund has had 149 claims and issued 36 determinations to date, but has not released the amounts. Greensburg Diocese says it will release numbers when they are more complete.
There has been progress in the last year, but not in the state Senate, where there has been resistance to changing law to allow a two-year window for adult survivors to file lawsuits.
It took 70 years to bring the abuse out of the dark.
It took another year to get to a place where more victims have stepped forward, more charges have been filed and more progress has been made in making the focus on protecting the abused instead of the abusers.
How long will it take for the law to catch up?