We respect the sanctity of the American judicial system, including the necessary secrecy of grand jury proceedings.
That doesn’t prevent us from feeling grossly disappointed in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s order Wednesday indefinitely holding up the release of a grand jury report into the handling of sexual abuse claims involving six of the eight Roman Catholic dioceses across the state, including the Scranton Diocese.
The report is expected to reveal details of widespread abuse and efforts to conceal it and protect clergy by officials within and outside the church.
The court’s two-paragraph order did not reveal who had filed petitions blocking release of the report, only that those petitions had been granted.
The order specifically stated that grand jury supervisory Judge Norman A. Krumenacker III and the state Attorney General’s Office may not release the findings until the court gives its permission.
The order did not explain the court’s reasoning or say how long it would take to consider the issue, as the Philadelphia Inquirer pointed out. It tersely indicated that all other documents in the file remain sealed.
That’s all we knew as of Thursday, when this editorial was written.
We’d love to get scooped by a late-night development in which the court suddenly changes course, but that’s highly unlikely.
Short of seeing this landmark document being released for the public good, we’d most like to know who felt that abuse victims and the general public should wait even longer to know what the two-year investigation discovered.
Despite its incendiary contents, bishops in all of the state’s eight dioceses previously stated that they would not block release of the report, as the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and other outlets reported. Some did say they wanted to be allowed to read it first, however.
Scranton Bishop Joseph Bambera last week issued a statement offering “my deepest apologies to the victims of such abuse, to their families, to the faithful of our Church and to everyone impacted by the behaviors described in this report.”
We’re going to take the bishops at their word. So who wanted it blocked?
We don’t know. Perhaps we may never know.
What we do know is that Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro has been on the right side of this issue, as has Krumenacker.
The Cambria County-based judge earlier this month made public a decision rejecting an effort to delay the release of the report or let those named in it challenge the details before it’s made public. Krumenacker said the state has a strong interest in preventing child abuse “by identifying abusers and those individuals and institutions that enable (them) to continue abusing children.”
We applaud the push for transparency by Krumenacker and by Shapiro, who released this statement on Wednesday: “My legal team and I will continue fighting tirelessly to make sure the victims of this abuse are able to tell their stories and the findings of this investigation are made public to the people of Pennsylvania.”
The people of Pennsylvania number nearly 12.8 million, and a quarter of us — 3.2 million — remain members of the Roman Catholic faith.
As Shapiro points out, all of us deserve to hear what the victims have to say. We have a right to know who may have enabled child abuse to continue and go unpunished. Catholics have a right to know the leaders of their church are not above the law.
We believe justice will eventually prevail. But as the saying goes, justice delayed is justice denied.
Shame on those who continue to seek delays.
— Times Leader