Our View: Pa. grand jury report could be just tip of iceberg

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro speaks during a news conference at the Pennsylvania Capitol in Harrisburg last week. A Pennsylvania grand jury says its investigation of clergy sexual abuse identified more than 1,000 child victims. The grand jury report says that number comes from records in six Roman Catholic dioceses. - AP Photo | Matt Rourke

Much has been written about the horrific grand jury report into Catholic church sex abuse over the last week.

And much more has yet to be written.

It’s a very safe bet this story and its various off-shoots will not be going away anytime soon.

Why?

The evidence that exists thus far clearly indicates what we now know about the abuse and subsequent, calculated cover-ups are merely the tip of the iceberg.

To take the analogy a step further, maybe even the full tip of that miserable iceberg has not been fully exposed.

First, significant portions of the 884-page report are redacted to protect the identities of yet more priests who are accused, including more in the Scranton diocese. The redactions are due to pending litigation by those challenging the grand jury findings. It’s our sincere hope that at some point the report can drop the “interim” tag and everything it contains can become public.

Second, if you begin reading about each priest’s alleged atrocities against children, it becomes readily apparent the grand jury in no way was able to document each and every instance of potential abuse.

That’s because surely some of the abuse will never or has yet to be reported. Or the abuse was reported but just never documented.

Indeed, at various points through the grand jury’s findings, there are notes about accused priests possibly or probably having more unknown victims.

So, the estimate of 1,000 or more abused children is just a preliminary estimate that could grow significantly over the next few months, only adding to the depravity of the situation.

An indicator of the magnitude of what could lie ahead came via a tweet from our Attorney General Josh Shapiro on Saturday.

Shapiro, now a nationally known figure, tweeted: “Calls are surging to our special Clergy Abuse Hotline since the Grand Jury Report was released Tuesday. We have trained, dedicated Agents on the line to listen to survivors and help. This is an active and ongoing investigation.”

The tweet ended with how to reach the hotline: 888-538-8541.

But that’s just the situation in Pennsylvania.

Already, the state of New York is considering its own probe into its Roman Catholic dioceses.

The attorney general there is trying to work with local district attorneys to convene grand juries, according to a recent Associated Press report.

“Victims in New York deserve to be heard as well,” said a spokeswoman for that state’s AG.

The same AP story shows these type of probes into Catholic dioceses are rare.

Advocacy group BishopAccountability.org counts only nine investigative reports by a prosecutor or grand jury into a U.S. Catholic diocese or archdiocese.

When you are consider there almost 200 U.S. dioceses and archdioceses, you see how much more there could be to explore.

So far, attorneys general around the country have been mostly quiet about pursuing their own probes, according to the Associated Press.

But investigations could already be underway elsewhere and we just don’t know because of the required secrecy of grand jury proceedings.

And if they were no plans in a particular state to follow Pennsylvania’s path, that’s going to change after last week’s shocking revelations.

Terence McKiernan, president of BishopAccountability.org, believes the public will pressure local prosecutors to look into other dioceses.

We say the more that becomes public, the better.

And the better the chance such a wide-ranging scandal is never perpetrated upon the innocent again.

— Times Leader

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro speaks during a news conference at the Pennsylvania Capitol in Harrisburg last week. A Pennsylvania grand jury says its investigation of clergy sexual abuse identified more than 1,000 child victims. The grand jury report says that number comes from records in six Roman Catholic dioceses.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/web1_121053248-d495f7e90e6444d0aa75d6c8f257c5f0.jpgPennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro speaks during a news conference at the Pennsylvania Capitol in Harrisburg last week. A Pennsylvania grand jury says its investigation of clergy sexual abuse identified more than 1,000 child victims. The grand jury report says that number comes from records in six Roman Catholic dioceses. AP Photo | Matt Rourke