Sexual Abuse Victims Rally

State Rep. Mark Rozzi, D-Berks, speaks during a rally advocating for a change in state law to allow lawsuits for child sex abuse. Victims and supporters gathered on the steps of the Pennsylvania Capitol rotunda in Harrisburg on Tuesday, June 12, 2018.

A soon-to-be-released grand jury report into clergy child sexual abuse throughout six Roman Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania is expected to closely resemble a document produced after a previous investigation into the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese.

In 2016, the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General put out a 147-page report that included details of abuse committed by at least 50 priests and other religious leaders and of alleged efforts by Bishops James Hogan and Joseph Adamec to cover up the actions. A proportionally similar report – almost 900 pages, naming more than 300 alleged abusers – has been created after an investigation was conducted into the dioceses of Allentown, Scranton, Erie, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg and Greensburg.

It is to be made public possibly early as Aug. 8.

“I expect it to hit kind of like the Altoona-Johnstown report,” said Judy Jones, the Midwest regional leader for Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. “For one thing, Catholics got really angry. They saw it in writing and that kind of helped for people to start to understand this is really going on. I kind of expect that to be the case here, too.”

The Altoona-Johnstown report was the impetus for the grand jury investigation into the six other dioceses – a process that was overseen by Cambria County President Judge Norman Krumenacker. Abuse within the Archdiocese of Philadelphia had been revealed with reports in 2005 and 2011.

Richard Serbin, a Blair County attorney who represents abuse victims, testified before the grand jury and separately provided information about more than 100 alleged predator priests and other religious leaders to the attorney general's office.

“I feel confident, based on what I was aware of in other dioceses and even the information that I provided, that it's going to follow a similar pattern that we saw in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown,” Serbin said.

Several unidentified individuals challenged the release of the report, arguing, through lawyers, they were concerned about possible damage to their reputations. In response, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ordered the release of a partiality redacted document.

“Why is there such pushback when there was no pushback on the Altoona-Johnstown report?” asked state Rep. Mark Rozzi, D-Berks, a survivor of clergy sexual abuse and leading advocate for victims. “Why is this different than that report? My only thing that I can think of is there's probably some high-profile people – whether they're bishops or possibly cardinals now – that are doing everything they can to protect their reputation.”

Rozzi expects the findings to be the “most expansive grand jury report in the history of the United States on child sex abuse” that will reveal “very egregious crimes that were committed by the clergy” and “a very clear picture of the cover-up by the bishops.”

Around 500 alleged predators – from within the Catholic Church – have been identified in Pennsylvania: approximately 300 in the grand jury report into the six dioceses, approximately 50 in Altoona-Johnstown and 137 in the Philadelphia Archdiocese, as listed at bishop-accountability.org.

Jones called that total “unbelievable.”

“It's shocking in the sense that we are talking about thousands of children,” Serbin said.

Dave Sutor is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at (814) 532-5056. Follow him on Twitter @Dave_Sutor.

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