A grand jury report exposed more than 1,000 victims of child sexual abuse allegedly by some 300 Catholic priests across Pennsylvania, sending tremors not only in the state but across the country and beyond, even to the Vatican. But the report may never have seen the light of day without the effort of Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro and a host of others that filed briefs seeking to make the document public. And the legal fight isn’t over yet.
Although the report is quite detailed, covering 884 pages, many entries were redacted, including dozens of pages pertaining to priests accused of abusing children that were kept from public inspection. Nearly two dozen priests contend parts of the report were inaccurate and would unjustly harm their reputations because they weren’t given sufficient opportunity to defend themselves. Kline & Specter has again filed a “friend of the court” brief in support of Shapiro, who is asking the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which ordered release of the report on Aug. 14, to go a step further and make public the redacted portions. The law firm was among a number of organizations, including at least seven news media outlets such as The Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News, that filed suit seeking to have the original report released.
The grand jury report took two years to compile and cited cases of priest abuse and coverups by church hierarchy in six archdioceses dating back to 1947. The report gave vivid detail in revealing more than 300 “predator priests” and the manners in which they molested those entrusted to their care. In two cases it revealed that five siblings from a single family were assaulted. It noted that priests often won the trust of parents before going on to molest children, even sometimes in their own homes. In many, if not most, cases, children were afraid to say no to the priests and were fearful also of telling their parents. Predator priests often warned their victims to keep quiet about the assaults. And it was that fear along with shame that kept them silent for many years. While the report brought harsh criticism upon the church, redacting certain portions of the report was seen as a partial legal victory for the priests and church officials. At a news conference following release of the grand jury report, Shapiro told the news media: "Every redaction represents an incomplete story of abuse that deserves to be told."
“On behalf of the many victims who we represent, we believe that there is no alternative to full transparency -- something owed to those wronged by this decades-old tragedy,” said Kline, noting his firm’s efforts on behalf of the victims of child abuse by priests and others. Learn more about how our sexual abuse lawyers can help, what victims can do, statutes of limitations and more information.
The high court is to hear arguments on whether to lift the redactions on Sept. 26.