Catholic Church and advocates of sex abuse survivors battle over release of Pa. grand jury report

The Washington Post

July 24, 2018

By Michelle Boorstein

Lawyers for Pennsylvania, the Catholic Church and victims of clergy sex abuse are battling behind closed court doors over an 800-plus-page grand jury report detailing allegations of clerical abuse in six of the state’s eight Catholic dioceses.

Catholics across Pennsylvania — which is believed to have done more investigations of institutional child sex abuse than any other state — were expecting to see results of the 18-month-long probe in June. But people who are named in the report, but not charged, then petitioned, saying that to name them violates their constitutional rights. For weeks, court and state lawyers have been before the state Supreme Court, arguing about the redacting of names and entire sections and what can be released.

As of Monday, the high court’s June 20 stay remained in place, but some experts and clergy said the high-profile case could hold bishops and other high-ranking clergy accountable for endangering children.

Such a legal shift already occurred in the case of Monsignor William Lynn, secretary of clergy for the Philadelphia Archdiocese, who was convicted in 2012 in a groundbreaking case — the first in the nation to send a cleric to jail for not protecting children. Lynn’s conviction was later overturned on appeal, and he has been granted a new trial.

However, the question of how wide the net of legal responsibility for children goes remains central in that case, said Marci Hamilton, an attorney with Child USA, a think tank aimed at preventing child abuse. The state Supreme Court said Lynn’s new trial should be governed by the theory that superiors can be held responsible for endangering children under their care, even those not under their direct supervision, Hamilton said. The new grand jury represents another major chance to test whether high-ranking Catholic officials will be held accountable for children who were harmed, she said.

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