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Catholic dioceses sued over disclosure of abuse allegations

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro speaks during a news conference at the state Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa., on Aug. 14, 2018. 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. The people seated were some of those affected by the clergy abuse. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Parents of children in the Roman Catholic Church and survivors of sexual abuse by clergy filed a lawsuit against Pennsylvania’s eight dioceses and their bishops, asking a judge to compel them to release information about abuse allegations.

The lawsuit filed Monday (Sept. 17) in Pittsburgh comes a month after a statewide grand jury report detailed sexual abuse allegations against more than 300 priests over decades in six of the state’s dioceses. The lawsuit alleges the dioceses haven’t met their obligations to report child sexual abusers under state law.

Benjamin Sweet, an attorney for the lead plaintiffs, said they are not seeking money but instead are asking for public transparency about allegations. Many victims who came forward to talk to the grand jury fall outside the statute of limitations to file a civil personal injury lawsuit. The lawsuit filed Monday doesn’t seek damages and doesn’t represent solely victims of abuse, so Sweet said it isn’t prohibited by any statute of limitations.

“From our perspective this is completely about disclosure and coming clean and allowing these predator priests to be named. The concealment of these priests is a continuing slap in the face to these survivors. It’s a continuing slap in the face to the parents who trust these churches and institutions to educate these children,” he said.

The lawsuit asks for injunctive relief to compel the dioceses to be better mandated reporters for child sexual abuse allegations. It also asks to compel the dioceses to release all information they had given to the grand jury to the public and to provide a mechanism for reporters to review records to make sure their allegations exist, are accurate and have been sent to the proper law enforcement or government officials.

Spokespeople for several of the state’s dioceses said they could not comment on the lawsuit since they had not seen it. Messages left at several other dioceses Monday were not immediately returned.

Spokesmen for the Greensburg, Pittsburgh and Allentown dioceses reiterated their written responses to the grand jury report, saying all allegations of abuse of minors are reported to law enforcement.

“At the Diocese of Greensburg, any and every allegation, regardless of credibility, is immediately called in to Pennsylvania ChildLine and reported to the appropriate district attorney, whether the allegation is minutes old or 70 years old,” Greensburg Diocese spokesman Jerry Zufelt said.

The lawsuit, however, contends that the 20 names of clergy that are still redacted in the grand jury report, along with the fact it says only 10 of the 300 priests named in the report are registered sex offenders under the federal Megan’s Law, lead parents and survivors to believe the dioceses still have not been transparent.

Clergy abuse survivor Ryan O’Connor — one of the lead plaintiffs in the case — said he realized years after his abuse that he needed his faith to be able to heal. His children attend Catholic school, but O’Connor said he would be lying if he said he trusted all of the priests they come into contact with.

“This is not about money or seeking damages. This is about transparency; this is about honesty. This is about letting parents know that we are going to take care of this. This is about the church saying we are going to get rid of these bad operators and we are going to no longer protect them,” O’Connor said. “This is about protecting my kids, their classmates and every child who steps foot into a Catholic school or into Mass as an altar server.”

(Claudia Lauer writes for The Associated Press.)

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27 Comments

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  • It is sad that the RC hierarchy, after so many years of cover-up, obfuscation, and delay, has turned into something that fewer and fewer people are willing to trust. They intended to prevent scandal but in the process they themselves became a scandal much greater than the one they were trying to prevent.

    There are some, of course, who will continue to trust the RC hierarchy because their self-identity depends on their RC tribal identity, and they will be the loyal laity in the Rump Church that is coming within another two or three generations.

  • I am all for shedding light on the homoclericalism that exists in the RCC. The more it is brought into the light, the easier it will be to destroy. Then we can proceed to the rebuilding of the church.

  • The article, of course, does not describe a scandal but a lawsuit designed to pry open confidential files on internal church proceedings.

    The “hierarchy”’s “self-identity” does not depend on “RC tribal identity” but on the very foundation of the Catholic Church, as described in Lumen Gentium at Vatican II:

    http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19641121_lumen-gentium_en.html

    commencing at:

    “CHAPTER III”

    “ON THE HIERARCHICAL STRUCTURE OF THE CHURCH AND IN PARTICULAR ON THE EPISCOPATE ”

    For those who find this sort of thing pesky or annoying, there are options.

    In the United States my top recommendations are:

    http://elca.org/

    and

    https://www.episcopalchurch.org/

    which don’t see “bishops” the same way.

  • I agree with you with the caveat that certain internal church documents and conversations may be off limits due to the First Amendment.

    In particular the content of confessions and the records of internal church discipline are off limits to the state.

  • Ok. Agree on constitutional terms.
    Confession definitely off limits.
    Not sure how to handle internal documents except that I would like everything exposed.

  • “a lawsuit designed to pry open confidential files on internal church proceedings”

    This is just one more case of heinous attacks on the Church by Satanic abuse victims. They can’t fool you, BobBob, bless your precious little heart.

  • Internal documents dealing with religious discipline are the warp and woof of a religion.

    Opening up those kinds of things to ambitious district attorneys is the sort of intrusive government interference that hallmarked the English treatment of religion and led to the First Amendment in the first place.

    If a church keeps non-confidential records of allegations or reports, that’s one thing.

    To go poking about in the proceedings of internal church tribunals is another.

  • You have literally nothing to say that indicates even a remote familiarity with American law, in this case the First Amendment, or what files might be at issue in this lawsuit, perpetuallyclueless.

    Being a victim does NOT grant an exemption to laws or due process.

    You might get a more favorable response at

    http://www.aggiornamento.net/

    or

    http://bilgrimage.blogspot.com/

    where they appear to eat that sort of thing up.

  • It’s the fourth option that has been used for the last half century, starting with the the Society of Pius X.

    That group’s stock is rising as they seem to have been prescient.

  • No, all human beings sin.

    They will continue to sin to the end of time.

    Some of those human beings are Catholics.

  • I just looked at your profile.

    You joined Disqus today, made 47 consecutive anti-Catholic posts, upvoted yourself 47 consecutive times.

    Tsk, tsk, troll.

    You’re blocked.

  • There is no doubt that you will be immortalized as a founding saint of the Rump Church because it is the Real Catholics who will ensure that it is a Rump Church. God will reward you for leading the good fight against the Satanic abuse victims, BobBob, bless your precious little heart.

  • With your bitter sour grapes, unceasinglystumped, you have not written a single sentence in all the time I have read you that indicated any familiarity at all with Catholicism except the ranks and some names of those you hate.

    In common with your buds at the now and justly gone NCR Comments section, you’re the problem, not the solution.

    It doesn’t take a whole lot of work, or a whole lot of intelligence, to call those doing the work names, give authority the finger, or say you know better.

    It’s the folks in the pews all these years, who contribute to their parishes, give their sons and daughters to vocations, support the Church’s teachings, raise their children in the Faith who are the future.

  • “It’s the folks in the pews … who are the future”.

    You are absolutely right, BobBob. As the Lincoln apocrypha points out, some of the people can be fooled all of the time. And they will be the loyal laity of the Rump Church, BobBob, bless your precious little heart.

  • You contribute absolutely nothing to an intelligent conversation, consistentlybewildered, about Catholicism.

    https://disqus.com/home/discussion/religionnews/vatican_stalls_german_bishops_plan_to_give_protestants_communion/#reply-3940532014

    “‘the theology of the Eucharist, about which you appear to know zilch'”

    “The Host, if it contains gluten, is Jesus.”

    “The officiating priest, who may or may not like touching little boys or girls, is Jesus (in persona Christi)”

    “So the Eucharist consists of Jesus worshiping himself by cannibalizing himself.”

    Apparently you think that sort of cr-p is cute.

    Whatever happens, however the Church deals with it, you won’t be part of it.

  • I understand the seal of the confessional, however, I fail to understand how church discipline records fall under protection of the US Constitution’s 1st Amendment.

  • Because they exist for one reason and one reason only: the consideration of church discipline within the sphere of moral law and Canon Law.

    The Church guards its independence from the State, each of which operates in its own sphere.

    So, if a record exists of an accusation that a cleric did something in a personnel file, that is as discoverable in law as any other personnel file.

    But if that accusation leads to a church trial, or discipline, the records of that trial or hearing are not discoverable.

    Because states would love access to those records, Canon Law restricts access to them to the bishop and requires their destruction after a period of time, leaving only a record of the outcome (the verdict).

  • Ooops.

    Fixed.

    I have a weird problem on this computer of things copied getting “stuck” in memory so that a previous CTRL-C pastes instead of the latest.

    I am usually more attentive.

    Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

  • In reality, Christianity/Catholicism should not exist since it is based on flawed history and theology. Without these flaws, there would be no RCC and therefore no priests and therefore no cases of priestly pedophilia. Ditto for all the other Christian sects like the Southern Baptist Convention and Seven Day Adventists where pedophilia and cover-ups have been a major issue. Judaism with its flawed history and theology is in the same situation. Correct the flaws and there would be no Judaism and therefore no rabbis and therefore no cases of rabbinic pedophilia/

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