Pennsylvania had just released a redacted report from a two-year grand jury investigation into sexual abuse within six of the eight Catholic dioceses across the state — Scranton, Allentown, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, Erie, and Greensburg. The report alleges more than seven decades of sexual abuse by 301 predator priests and church leaders’ attempts to cover up the abuse by persuading victims not to report the abuse.
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Criminal/Sexual Violence Practice Chairman Steven J. Kelly comments on the report:
First, how could the Church keep these “secret files” hidden for so long despite hundreds of lawsuits seeking to uncover the records? The Church, its lawyers and all those involved in efforts to keep this information silent have blood on their hands and should be ashamed of their conduct in unabashedly protecting pedophiles. This is all the more shocking on the heels of the revelations that Cardinal McCarrick was promoted to the highest levels in the Church hierarchy despite widely-known allegations of his pedophilia. All these revelations come days after the death of Richard Sipe—a former priest and champion for clergy abuse victims who specifically called out McCarrick as an abuser years ago who led the fight to force the Church to turn over its secret files from the Vatican down to the most remote diocese.
As an attorney specializing in representing victims of childhood sexual abuse, I have taken on the Catholic Church in numerous cases and have specifically joined in efforts to unseal and force public disclosure of secret files that demonstrate the widespread cover-up of child sex abuse in the Church. I have also worked to expose efforts by the Catholic Church and other religious entities to defraud, trick, lie to and intimidate child sex abuse victims in an effort to “silence” them. To stop such efforts, I have worked with the American Bar Association Center on Children in the law and the National Crime Victim Legal Institute to develop tools for child-victim attorneys to use to protect the privacy of those who were sexually abused as children in criminal and civil cases—including the Sandusky case in Pennsylvania.
Second, I applaud the Pennsylvania grand jury’s call for the state to eliminate the statute of limitations for child sex abuse. The Church and other powerful institutions have fiercely opposed proposals to expand and/or eliminate the statute of limitations despite clear evidence that many survivors of sexual assault continue to suffer from the horror of child rape throughout their lives. Preventing such victims from suing has enabled the Church—and other institutions—to hide widespread pedophilia. The grand jury rightly recognized that it’s time for society to prioritize protecting children over shielding pedophiles and the countless people and institutions who protected them and covered up their actions.
Along with the National Crime Victim Bar Association and Professor Marci Hamilton’s Child USA, I have worked with other child sex abuse lawyers to push broad reforms to both civil and criminal statutes of limitation. Child victims are not allowed to forget the horror that they endured and it is only fair to force those who caused the horror to be forced to reckon with the consequences of their actions.