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Religious Tolerance logo


Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests in Pennsylvania:

2018: A Grand Jury report indicates over 300
priests sexually abused over 1,000 minors
over the last seven decades.

Part 1 of eight parts.

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CNN reported 1 that the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, PA, released a massive report on 2018-AUG-14 titled "40th Statewide Grand Jury Report No. 1." 2 Various online sources indicate that its length ranges from 457 to 1,356 pages! It discusses the sexual abuse of minors by Roman Catholic priests in the state during the previous seven decades -- since the end of World War II.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro referred to the document as the:

"... largest, most comprehensive report into child sexual abuse within the Catholic Church ever produced in the United States." 10

The Grand Jury report contains information extracted from a half million pages of internal confidential documents from six Roman Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania. The documents describe allegations that 301 "predator priests" are believed to have abused more than 1,000 minors in those dioceses. The report described the latter as "child victims."

It states:

"Most of the victims were boys; but there were girls too. Some were teens; many were pre-pubescent. Some were manipulated with alcohol or pornography. Some were made to masturbate their assailants, or were groped by them. Some were raped orally, some vaginally, some anally. But all of them were brushed aside, in every part of the state, by church leaders who preferred to protect the abusers and their institution above all. ..."

"We believe that the real number of children whose records were lost or who were afraid ever to come forward is in the thousands. ... Priests were raping little boys and girls, and the men of God who were responsible for them not only did nothing; they hid it all. For decades. Monsignors, auxiliary bishops, bishops, archbishops, cardinals have mostly been protected. Many, including some named in this report, have been promoted." 3

According to the West Mufflin Police Department:

"The age of consent in Pennsylvania is 16 years of age for statutory sexual assault, and 18 years for corruption of minors." 4

The report must be carefully interpreted. Previous findings in other areas in the U.S. and elsewhere around the world have indicated that while some priests did rape minors -- both boys and girls -- the vast majority of the victims were not "little." They were older teen-aged males.

The 2017 Official Catholic Directory states that, in in Pennsylvania, the "Total Priests in Diocese [is]: 2,509." 5 If this number is accurate, then the Grand Jury report would indicate that in excess of 12% -- more than one in nine -- of all Catholic priests in the state are believed to have abused minors. Although no precise estimates are available of the percentage of abusive pedophiles or hebephiles in the general male population, the estimates that have been made are considerably less than 12%. They are typically on the order of 1 or 2%.

The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference's web site contains a "Hot Issues" section. 6 An article titled "Help for victims/survivors in Pennsylvania" was added on the same day that the Grand Jury report was issued. It begins:

"If you suffered abuse, it was not your fault. If you are a survivor of sexual abuse by a priest, deacon, or individual representing the Catholic Church, there are several things you can do:" 6

The article has links to Victim/Survivor Assistance resources at each of the 8 Catholic Dioceses and two Ukrainian Archeparchies in the state. Some links connect to articles at various dioceses' web sites that deal specifically with the Grand Jury's report.

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Laws in Pennsylvania concerning illegal forms of sexual activity:

Pennsylvania has a complex set of rules concerning sexual activity. The state defines:

  • "Involuntary Deviate Sexual Intercourse" (IDSI) is a crime involving oral or anal sex engaged in without the consent of one party. It is a felony with penalties ranging up to 20 years in prison and up to $25,000 in fines. 7

  • "Aggravated Indecent Assault" involves anal or genital penetration of a person who is does not give consent or is unable to give consent for various reasons. The law has different sections and penalties depending upon: the victim's age, the presence or absence of a mental disability in the victim, the aggressor's age relative to the victim, the use of drugs, etc. It is a felony, and also involves penalties that vary according to the specifics of the case. 8

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Some definitions of terms:

Adults and youths over the age of 15 who are preferentially sexually attracted to prepubescent minors are properly referred to as "pedophiles."

The term "ephebophile" refers to those pedophiles who are adults attracted to minors who are mid-to-late adolescents -- generally ages 15 to 19 -- who have completed puberty and are biological adults.

The vast majority of pedophiles and ephebophiles do not engage in the physical abuse of minors. They do not act on their feelings of sexual attraction because they realize that such abuse will severely damage most minors emotionally, and/or because they fear being criminally prosecuted.

The cause of pedophilia is unknown. There are no treatments or cures.

The terms "abusive pedophile" and "abusive ephebophile" are recommended when describing the minority of adult pedophiles and ephebophiles who act on their sexual attraction and have abused minors.

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About the Grand Jury report:

The issuance of the report was delayed because some individuals named in the report alleged that parts of it are false or misleading. On 2018-JUL-27, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ordered that the report be edited to delete passages that refer to cases that are under litigation, and that the modified report be released on or before AUG-14. This was done.

The report suggested that the methods that the Church leaders in Pennsylvania used to suppress the release of abuse information formed:

"... a playbook for concealing the truth." 9

The Los Angeles Times reported that the seven steps in the "playbook" were to:

"1) use euphemisms like “boundary issues” instead of “rape”;

2) use fellow clergy to conduct investigations;

3) send problem priests to church-run treatment centers;

4) decline to say why abusive priests were removed;

5) provide housing and living expenses for predator clergy;

6) transfer problem priests to new dioceses; and

7) avoid reporting the priests to the police." 10

The Religion News Service's review on the report commented:

"Of all the horrific details contained in the Pennsylvania grand jury report on child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, one sentence stands out: 'The main thing was not to help children, but to avoid scandal.'" 12

The six dioceses involved are Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh and Scranton. Sexual abuse by priests in the church's other two dioceses -- Philadelphia and Altoona-Johnstown -- had been described in earlier grand jury reports which found similar information about clergy who abused, and about bishops, etc. who covered up the abuse.

The grand jurors stated in the report:

"There have been other reports about child sex abuse within the Catholic Church. But never on this scale. ... For many of us, those earlier stories happened someplace else, someplace away. Now we know the truth: it happened everywhere. ..."

"Almost every instance of abuse we found is too old to be prosecuted. ... We learned of these abusers directly from their dioceses -- which we hope is a sign that the church is finally changing its ways. ... There may be more indictments in the future; investigation continues."

Two alleged cases of abuse were found to be sufficiently recent to be within the statute of limitations on reporting abuse. Charges have recently been filed against a priest in the Erie diocese and another priest in the Greensburg diocese. None of the other 299 clergy listed in the Grand Jury report face criminal charges. 11

According to USA Today, the report discussed a:

"... 'ring of predatory priests' within the Diocese of Pittsburgh who 'shared intelligence' regarding victims, exchanged the boys among themselves and manufactured child pornography. ... They used whips, violence and sadism in raping their victims."

Priests in the ring gave large gold crosses to their victims to wear. The report said that the crosses:

"... were a designation that these children were victims of sexual abuse. They were a signal to other predators that the children had been desensitized to sexual abuse and were optimal targets for further victimization." 11

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This topic continues in the next essay.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Daniel Burke & Susannah Cullinane, "Report details sexual abuse by more than 300 priests in Pennsylvania's Catholic Church," 2018-AUG-15, at:
  2. Norman A. Krumenacker III, 40th Statewide Grand Jury Report No. 1," Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania," 2018-JUN-18, at:
  3. Daniel Burke, "Why is the Pope still silent about damning sex abuse report? ," CNN U.S., 2018-AUG-16, at:
  4. "Pennsylvania Age Of Consent," West Mufflin Police Department, at:
  5. "PA Catholic Statistics," Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, at:
  6. "Hot Issues," Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, as of 2018-AUG-17, at:
  7. "Involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, code § 3123," Age of Consent, at:
  8. "Aggravated indecent assault Crime & Punishment in Pennsylvania," Age of Consent, at:
  9. Matt Pearce, " 'Like a playbook for concealing the truth': Pennsylvania grand jury details how Catholic Church allegedly covered up priest abuse," Los Angeles Times, 2018-AUG-14, at:
  10. Letter: Attorney General Josh Shapiro to Pope Francis, Attorney General's office, 2018-JUL-25, at:
  11. Anthony J. Machcinski, "Priests used gold crosses to ID kids as abuse targets and other horrors from Pennsylvania report, USA Today, 2018-AUG-15, at:
  12. "Sex scandals fester at unhealthy organizations, experts say," Religion News Service, 2018-AUG-19, at:

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How you might have arrived here:

 Home page > Religious Info. > Basic info > Clergy sex abuse > here

or Home page > Religious Violence > Clergy sex abuse > here

or Home page > Christianity > Roman Catholicism > Clergy sex abuse > here

Copyright © 2018 Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Author: B.A. Robinson
Originally posted on: 2018-AUG-16
Latest update: 2018-AUG-20

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