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State Leaders Are Proposing To Extend the Statute of Limitations for Sex Abuse Victims
Most victims of child sexual abuse never report the abuse and even if it was reported it was likely well beyond the statute of limitations. Many victims and their families are concerned that it may be too late to pursue justice. For many victims of child sex abuse by Pennsylvania clergy members, the offenses took place decades ago. Some are concerned that the deadline to take legal action has passed. State leaders and victims rights groups are advocating for changes in law which extend the time for victims to pursue legal action.
More About the Grand Jury Report
On August 14, 2018, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro revealed the comprehensive findings of a statewide investigative grand jury that spent two years uncovering abuse of children by priests, and a systematic cover up spanning decades by senior church leaders in Pennsylvania and the Vatican. The grand jury recommended reforming the criminal and civil statutes of limitations on sexual abuse in Pennsylvania, among other recommendations, and Attorney General Shapiro called on every Catholic bishop to support the reforms. The Attorney General said that "The abuse scarred every diocese. The cover up was sophisticated. The church protected the institution at all costs.”
"The investigation captured widespread sexual abuse and institutional cover up across the entire state. Building on investigations of the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese and the Philadelphia Archdiocese by previous grand juries, the 40th Statewide Grand Jury’s investigation covered the other Dioceses of Allentown, Erie, Harrisburg, Greensburg, Pittsburgh and Scranton, giving a complete picture of pervasive abuse in dioceses across Pennsylvania. The grand jury found:
301 Catholic priests identified as predator priests who sexually abused children while serving in active ministry in the church.
Detailed accounts of over 1,000 children victimized sexually by predator priests, with the grand jury noting it believed the real number of victims was in the “thousands.”
Senior church officials, including bishops, monsignors and others, knew about the abuse committed by priests, but routinely covered it up to avoid scandal, criminal charges against priests, and monetary damages to the dioceses.
Priests committed acts of sexual abuse upon children, and were routinely shuttled to other parishes – while parishioners were left unaware of sexual predators in their midst.
The 884-page grand jury report documents scores of sexual assaults and rapes of children by priests, and the institutional cover ups that followed by senior church officials, including:
In the Diocese of Erie, (41 predator priests named), one priest, Father Chester Gawronski, fondled boys and told them he was giving them a “cancer check.” Gawronski provided the Diocese with a list of 41 “possible” victims. He confessed to multiple instances of sexual abuse. Yet from 1987 until 2002 – 15 years – Gawronski remained in active ministry, repeatedly reassigned to new parishes.
In the Diocese of Allentown (37 predator priests named), one priest, Father Michael Lawrence rubbed a 12-year-old boy’s genitals so roughly the boy felt pain. “Please help me, I sexually molested a boy,” Lawrence admitted to a church official, who noted the confession in a confidential memo. Even after that admission, the Diocese ruled: “the experience will not necessarily be a horrendous trauma” for the victim. Lawrence was left in ministry for years by three different Bishops.
In the Diocese of Greensburg (20 predator priests named), one priest, Father Raymond Lukac, impregnated a 17-year-old, forged another pastor’s signature on a marriage certificate, then divorced the girl shortly after she gave birth. Despite that, Lukac remained in ministry while the Diocese sought a “benevolent bishop” in another state to take the predator, hiding him from justice.
In the Diocese of Harrisburg (45 predator priests named), one priest, Father Joe Pease, sexually assaulted a boy repeatedly when the victim was between 13 and 15. Pease admitted to diocese officials to once finding the victim naked upstairs in the rectory – but called it “horse play”. In a secret memo, the Diocese noted: “At this point we are at an impasse—allegations and no admission” before cycling Pease through church-run treatment and allowing him back in active ministry for seven more years.
In the Diocese of Pittsburgh (99 predator priests named), a group of at least four predator priests groomed and abused young boys. They used whips, violence and sadism in sexually assaulting their young victims. One boy, not yet 18, was forced to stand on a bed in a rectory, strip naked, and pose as Christ on the Cross for the priests. They took photos of their victim, adding them to a collection of child pornography which they produced and shared on church grounds.
In the Diocese of Scranton (59 predator priests named), one priest, Thomas Skotek, raped a young girl, got her pregnant, and arranged an abortion. The Bishop, James Timlin, expressed his feelings in a letter: “This is a very difficult time in your life, and I realize how upset you are. I too share your grief.” The bishop’s letter was not sent to the girl. It was addressed to the rapist." See https://www.attorneygeneral.gov/taking-action/press-releases/attorney-general-shapiro-details-findings-of-2-year-grand-jury-investigation-into-child-sex-abuse-by-catholic-priests-in-six-pennsylvania-dioceses/
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