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Pennsylvania

Pa. AG urges Pope to step in on grand jury's sex abuse report

Deb Erdley
| Thursday, July 26, 2018, 3:51 p.m.
Pope Francis blesses the crowd as he recites the Angelus noon prayer from the window of his studio overlooking St.Peter's Square, at the Vatican, Sunday, July 1, 2018. Pope Francis has lamented intensified attacks in southern Syria, asking that people be spared more suffering.  (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Pope Francis blesses the crowd as he recites the Angelus noon prayer from the window of his studio overlooking St.Peter's Square, at the Vatican, Sunday, July 1, 2018. Pope Francis has lamented intensified attacks in southern Syria, asking that people be spared more suffering. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro has appealed to Pope Francis for help in his battle to release a grand jury report detailing decades of allegations of sexual abuse in six dioceses in the state, including the Greensburg and Pittsburgh dioceses.

In a letter to the pontiff on Wednesday, Shapiro wrote that credible reports “indicate at least two leaders of the Catholic Church in Pennsylvania—while not directly challenging the release of the report in court—are behind efforts to silence the victims and avoid accountability.”

Shapiro asked Francis, who previously expressed sorrow and remorse to victims of clergy sexual abuse, to direct church leaders to “abandon their effort to silence the survivors.”

The attorney general penned his appeal as prosecutors from his office entered the second month of a legal battle over the findings of the sweeping probe that scrutinized decades of allegations of sexual abuse and cover-ups in the Erie, Harrisburg, Greensburg, Scranton, Allentown and Pittsburgh dioceses.

Shapiro, who released the grand jury report to diocesan officials in May, planned to release the 800-plus page document, along with responses from church leaders, in late June.

Officials in all six dioceses publicly expressed support for the planned release. But the Pennsylvania Supreme Court stayed the release when 14 individuals named in it, but not charged with crimes, objected, saying it violated their constitutional rights.

The petitions, which redacted the names of those objecting to the report, suggest they include current and former members of the clergy.

A frustrated Shapiro recalled meeting Pope Francis in 2015. Hailing the pontiff’s stand on clergy sexual abuse and accountability, Shapiro said he hopes Pope Francis will intercede with church leaders he believes are attempting to block the release of the report.

“It is my sincere hope Pope Francis encourages other church leaders to heed his words and abandon their destructive efforts to silence survivors,” Shapiro said in a statement.

Deb Erdley is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Deb at 412-320-7996, derdley@tribweb.com or via Twitter @deberdley_trib.

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