HARRISBURG, Pa. (ChurchMilitant.com) - The majority of Pennsylvania's dioceses are being subjected to a sweeping state grand jury investigation into both clerical sex abuse and the subsequent cover-ups allegedly perpetrated by Pennsylvania Church hierarchy.
Subpoenas from the state attorney general were issued late last week to the dioceses of Erie, Allentown, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, Greensburg and Scranton demanding all six dioceses hand over any documentation regarding sexual abuse committed by Pennsylvania clergy as part of a broad investigation into the matter. The archdiocese of Philadelphia was excluded from the probe, having already been the subject of three grand jury reports since 2003, which unearthed unreported claims of abuse at the hands of hundreds of priests. The remaining diocese, Altoona-Johnstown, is currently under investigation and has been since the release of an individual grand jury report in March.
Most of the dioceses in question have expressed their willingness to cooperate with authorities. "I could not agree more [with the probe]," stated Pittsburgh bishop David Zubik. "We are absolutely committed to protecting children from abuse."
The bishop continued to note the diocese intends "to give [state investigators] everything they want."
Responses from the other dioceses mirrored Bp. Zubik's statement.
The current probes stem from the Altoona-Johnstown grand jury report, which revealed two of the diocese's former bishops worked over multiple decades to shelter dozens of homosexual priests responsible for molesting hundreds of children. The prelates in question, Bps. James Hogan and Joseph Adamec, led the southern Pennsylvania diocese from 1966 to 2011, spearheading the cover-up with the assistance of local judges, police chiefs and politicians.
Diocesan records — which include personal notes written by Hogan himself — disclose that the prelate was abundantly aware of the homosexual crisis within his diocese but instead transferred the abusive priests from parish to parish, even sending a known sodomite cleric to work at an all-boys school. Hogan, who died in 2005, would also instruct priests subject to police surveillance to "lay low" and say nothing.
The report also notes Bp. Joseph Adamec, who retired in 2011, continued the work of hiding abuse and failed to penalize suspected priests, apart from ordering around a dozen to undergo mental evaluations. The grand jury report notes that both Bp. Adamec and staff members would bully alleged victims, often threatening them with excommunication if they spoke up.
The rampant abuse and subsequent cover-up resulted in two confirmed clerical and at least one victim suicide. The report has also produced charges of endangering the welfare of children and conspiracy to endanger the welfare of children against three former provincial ministers of the Franciscan Friars, Third Order Regular in western Pennsylvania. While the three friars have yet to stand trial, a settlement of $900,000 was reached for the victims of Br. Stephen Baker, the homosexual friar protected by the local Franciscan hierarchy.
However, according to Pennsylvania representative Mark Rozzi, the revelations from the Allentown diocese alone will "make the Altoona-Johnstown report look simple."
Rozzi, himself a victim of clerical sex abuse, testified last week in Pittsburgh before a grand jury regarding abuse in Allentown. "People are going to be really, really shocked, saddened, dismayed when they find out what really happened in the Allentown diocese," he remarked. "It is just too disgusting."
"It goes beyond priests abusing kids," notes Fr. Thomas Doyle, a Virginia-based priest who had previously testified before a Philadelphia grand jury. "It's the cover-ups by the Catholic bishops."
The potential of a large-scale investigation had been alluded to in June by state solicitor general Bruce Castor during a state senate hearing. "Our office is continuing its investigation by branching out to other parts of the state to ascertain the scope and breadth of Church officials to conceal allegations of sexual assault by members of the clergy against children and perhaps against adults as well," Castor announced.
Since the opening of the grand jury investigation into the Altoona-Johnstown diocese, the state has set up a hotline for individuals who believe themselves to be victims of clerical sex abuse. "The hotline has generated calls related to dioceses beyond Altoona-Johnstown and we are doing our due diligence to look into those investigative leads," claims Jeffrey Johnson, spokesman for the attorney general's office, who asserted "every diocese in Pennsylvania was identified as having a child predator in its midst."
The massive nationwide scandal of clerical sex abuse, which was broken by investigative journalists with the Boston Globe in 2002, has cost the Catholic Church nearly $4 billion.