Bankruptcy court could force Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg to disclose secret archives of clergy sex abuse


February 21, 2020

By Ivey DeJesus

In 2015, amid a wave of sex abuse lawsuits, the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis filed for federal bankruptcy protection.

Amid the financial wrangling that came with the move, the bankruptcy court ordered the archdiocese to release all of its secret archives on predator priests.

The order tore open the shield that the archdiocese had for decades used to protect priests who sexually abused children. The records showed how church officials had moved predators from one church to another, affording them new victims at every new assignment.

In the end, 91 clergy members were identified as sex abusers. And almost four years later, the archdiocese closed a $210-million settlement with more than 400 survivors, the largest such settlement in the nation. In recent years, other Catholic dioceses have been forced to release files confidential files detailing claims of abuse.

This week, when the Harrisburg Diocese announced it was filing for bankruptcy protection, officials focused on the financial matters at hand.

The matter of confidential church archives at this point has yet to factor in the discussion – at least publicly. But experts in the Catholic Church clergy sex abuse scandal point out the matter is poised to be a pivotal turning point for the Harrisburg Diocese.

“The 40th Statewide Grand Jury report did a good job,” said Terry McKiernan, president of, a non-profit that tracks clergy sex abuse cases. “But their staff was limited. Time was limited. There’s a whole lot more to understand about Harrisburg than was contained in the report.”

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