The release of damning grand jury report on decades of child sex abuse in six of the state’s Roman Catholic dioceses, including Scranton, attracted press coverage from around the world Tuesday, along with sharp criticism for church officials who protected offenders and praise for state Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s push for the document’s release.
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, a St. Louis-based support group for people abused by religious and institutional officials, released a statement urging further action in the wake of the report, saying “knowledge of past crimes is only valuable if it is translated into actions that will help prevent future sexual abuse and cover-ups.”
They urged “Catholics to wake up and hold church officials accountable,” adding: “Believe victims when they come forward, and never tell them to ‘get over it.’”
“We call on police and prosecutors in Pennsylvania, across the United States and around the world to recognize that cover-ups are the rule, rather than the exception in both Catholic dioceses and other institutions,” the statement continued. “Law enforcement can play a crucial role in protecting the vulnerable and comforting the abused when they aggressively investigate these old crimes.”
SNAP also urged Pennsylvania lawmakers “to lift the civil and criminal statute of limitations for child sex crimes and open a window of opportunity for older victims to file a lawsuit to expose the truth and obtain justice.”
Members of the group also plan media events in each the six dioceses covered in the report next week to highlight the findings.
The Scranton event is set for 11 a.m. next Monday at St. Peter’s Cathedral.
“SNAP commends all those brave victims who came forward and shared their heartbreaking truths. Without their great courage, this day would not have been possible,” the group said.
“We also applaud Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who fought so hard to insure that those truths would be made public.”
In media coverage from around the state:
“I know you’re hurting. So are we,” The Rev. John Daya told the paper, referring to priests who have never abused anyone. “We’re hurt and disheartened. We’re angry at those guys.”
• Shapiro praised Erie Catholic Bishop Lawrence Persico for his efforts to achieve transparency and accountability, “signaling a new way forward.”
Following Shapiro’s press conference, Persico gave a statement which included an offer “to pay for counseling of abuse victims, no matter how long ago the abuse occurred or whether victims still live within the Diocese of Erie or not,” Erie’s Times-News reported.
• In Pittsburgh, the Post-Gazette noted that the grand jury report uncovered a “ring of predatory priests” that operated in Western Pennsylvania in the 1970s and ’80s, “who shared intelligence about their victims and sometimes even shared the victims themselves.”
They also marked their victims, the grand jury said, by giving their favorite boys gold cross necklaces to wear, according to the paper.
• In Allentown, the Morning Call reported on denials issued by attorneys for three clergymen — a retired monsignor, a recently deceased monsignor and a former priest — of the grand jury’s findings against them.
The retired monsignor, Thomas Benestad, accused the panel of falsely implying that he retired because of the allegations, the paper reported.
“Monsignor Benestad has never done anything that would be deemed immoral by the church with any individual. Monsignor Benestad has never done anything illegal with any person as judged by any civil or criminal authority,” attorney John Waldron wrote.