Rigali Apologizes to Victims
Archdiocese Blasts Report

By Kitty Caparella
Philadelphia Inquirer
September 22, 2005

THE ARCHDIOCESE OF Philadelphia yesterday apologized to victims of sex abuse, then blasted a scathing 418-page grand jury report on pedophile Catholic priests.

Cardinal Justin Rigali, archbishop of Philadelphia, expressed "deep regrets and sincere apologies" to young victims who were "violated" and "humiliated."

"Horrible acts of abuse must not be tolerated," he added.

But his attorney, William Sasso, called the report "incredibly biased and anti-Catholic."

Rigali, who took over the archdiocese in 2003, said the grand jury, empaneled 40 months ago, was supposed to investigate other denominations and organizations, but "there is not a word about anyone else."

"Why just the Catholic Church when everyone knows it's a societal problem?" asked the cardinal.

In a carefully orchestrated press conference with P.R. folks and lawyers whispering remarks to those talking to reporters, the officials "absolutely denied" what District Attorney Lynne Abraham called a "cover-up" by the archdiocese of decades-long sex abuse by priests that dates back to Cardinal John Krol.

"We don't accept that," said Rigali.

Asked about a sado-masochistic incident detailed in the report, Rigali said it was re-examined with a finding that: "This was not sex abuse."

Archodiocesan Attorney C. Clark Hodgson Jr. said some incidents were "wildly distorted and exaggerated."

A 69-page rebuttal accused three prosecutors of "bullying" Rigali's predecessor, Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, and attempting to "trap, humiliate, prosecute and disrespect him" during his 10 grueling grand jury appearances totalling 27 hours.

Rigali also condemned the "vehemence with which Catholic pastors were attacked" in the report.

The archdiocese produced 45,000 documents in response to 30 grand jury subpoenas. "Not one person failed to testify," said one official.

The rebuttal report attacked the grand jury's "reckless rhetoric" focusing on "lurid details" of "long ago episodes" and failed to acknowledge the limited science in the past to prevent or heal sex abuse.

Sasso complained that the grand jury failed to mention the church's recent corrective actions, including reporting practices and procedures, sex abuse treatment, training 110,000 children and 40,000 adults on proper boundaries between them.

The grand jury's job was to find criminal fault, not praise the archdiocese's corrective actions.

Asked about juror's recommendation to eliminate time limits to prosecute sexual abusers of minors, Sasso said that it would depend on the language of the legislation.

"We don't have a problem with it on a prospective basis," but he called it "inherently unfair" to the archdiocese and other institutions to dig up cases from 30 to 50 years ago.

Of the 54 pedophiles identified by the archdiocese, one is jailed, 10 are dead, 11 have left the clergy, cases of nine are under review by the Holy See, and 21 are restricted to a life of prayer and penance. The whereabouts of one is unknown.

None of the six clergymen from other religious orders is in Philadelphia, but one is in Camden, according to the archdiocese.

The cardinal will send a pastoral letter this weekend to be read at Sunday Masses within the archdiocese.


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