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  'A Continuous, Concerted Campaign of Cover-Up'
Excerpts from the Grand Jury's Report

Philadelphia Inquirer
September 22, 2005

http://www.philly.com/mld/inquirer/news/nation/12707676.htm

Many of us are Catholic. We have the greatest respect for the faith, and for the good works of the Church. But the moral principles on which it is based, as well as the rules of civil law under which we operate, demanded the truth be told.

Some may be tempted to describe these events as tragic. Tragedies such as tidal waves, however, are outside human control. What we have found were not acts of God, but of men who acted in His name and defiled it.

Grand jurors heard evidence proving that Cardinals Bevilacqua and Krol, and their aides, were aware that priests in the diocese were perpetrating massive amount of child molestations and sexual assaults. The Archdiocese's own files reveal a steady stream of reports and allegations... . In many cases, the same priests were reported again and again.

After reviewing thousands of documents from Archdiocese files and hearing... from over a hundred witnesses, we, the Grand Jurors, were taken aback by the extent of sexual exploitation within the Philadelphia Archdiocese.

... For any who might want to believe that the abuse problem in the Philadelphia area was limited in scope, this Report will disabuse them of that impression. The Jurors heard from some victims who were sexually abused once or twice, and from many more who were abused week after week for years... . Indeed, the evidence arising from the Philadelphia Archdiocese reveals criminality against minors on a widespread scale - sparing no geographic sector, no income level, no ethnic group. We heard testimony about priests molesting and raping children in rectory bedrooms, in church sacristies, in parked cars, in swimming pools, at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, at the priests' vacation houses in the Poconos and the Jersey shore, in the children's schools and even in their own homes.

Cardinal Bevilacqua, Cardinal Krol and their top aides all abdicated their duty to protect children. They concealed priests' sexual abuses instead of exposing them.

There is no doubt that the cardinals and their top aides knew that Philadelphia priests were abusing children. There is no doubt that these officials engaged in a continuous, concerted campaign of cover-up over the priests' sexual offenses.

Sexually abusive priests were either left quietly in place or 'recycled' to unsuspecting new parishes - vastly expanding the number of children who were abused.

Documents clearly established that Cardinal Bevilacqua knew that the priests had admitted abusing minors. They also established that he alone was responsible for subsequently placing or leaving the priests in parishes where they would present a severe danger to children.

Cardinal Bevilacqua had a strict policy, according to his aides, that forbid informing parishioners... . The Cardinal, in fact, encouraged that parishioners be misinformed.

Cardinal Bevilacqua was trained as an attorney... . The Grand Jurors find that in his handling of priests' sexual abuse, Cardinal Bevilacqua was motivated by an intent to keep the record clear of evidence that would implicate him or the Archdiocese. To this end, he continued many of the practices of his predecessor, Cardinal Krol, aimed at avoiding scandal, while also introducing policies that reflected a growing awareness that dioceses and bishops might be held legally responsible for their negligent and knowing actions that abetted known predators.

To protect themselves from negative publicity or expensive lawsuits - while keeping abusive priests active - the cardinals and their aides hid the priests' crimes from parishioners, police and the general public.

In his testimony before the Grand Jury, Cardinal Bevilacqua was still attempting to evade responsibility for placing known sexual offenders in parishes where they had easy access to hundreds of children... .

He often suggested he might not have known all the facts and that he delegated the handling of these matters to his Secretary of Clergy. He repeatedly claimed to have no memory of incidents and priests we will never forget.

What makes these actions all the worse, the grand jurors believe, is that the abuses that Cardinal Bevilacqua and his aides allowed children to suffer - the molestations, the rapes, the lifelong shame and despair - did not result from failures or lapses, except of the moral variety.

They were made possible by purposeful decisions, carefully implemented policies and calculated indifference.

In its callous, calculating manner, the archdiocese's 'handling' of the abuse scandal was at least as immoral as the abuse itself... .

Archdiocese officials at the highest levels received reports of abuse... they chose not to conduct any meaningful investigation... they left dangerous priests in place or transferred them to different parishes as a means of concealment... . They never alerted parents of the dangers poses by these offenders... . They intimidated and retaliated against victims and witnesses... they manipulated "treatment" efforts in order to create a false impression of action... they did many of these things in a conscious effort to simply to avoid civil liability.

It didn't have to be this way. Prompt action and a climate of compassion for the child victims could have significantly limited the damage done. But the archdiocese chose a different path.

 
 

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