Victims' Testimony Was Traumatizing, Forewoman Says

By Joseph A. Slobodzian
Philadelphia Inquirer
September 22, 2005

Every Thursday and Friday for two years, Rosalind N. Arrington, a 57-year-old grandmother from West Philadelphia, and about two dozen fellow citizens had front-row seats to tales of abuse, depravity and cover-ups.

Arrington, an administrative worker with the state Department of Public Welfare, was the forewoman on the Philadelphia grand jury that concluded that, for decades, leaders of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia abetted the sexual abuse of hundreds of children by 63 priests - concealing their conduct and transferring them to other parishes.

"We knew this was important work we were doing," she said in an interview last night. "We were talking about children here, children who were victimized."

The grand jury did not recommend charges. It could not, because most of the sexual assaults were outside the two-year statute of limitations in effect in Pennsylvania at the time for bringing criminal charges.

But Arrington said she had no doubt of the value of the grand jury's 418-page report in documenting the abuse, how it happened, and how it was allowed to continue.

Arrington declined to discuss the deliberations or the testimony of individual witnesses, saying, "The report speaks for itself, and for all of us."

But she called the testimony, especially of people raped or sexually abused by priests, "just traumatizing. You just can't really put it out of your mind."

Arrington was stunned when she was told of the archdiocesan response to the grand jury's report.

The archdiocese called the report anti-Catholic, "a vile, mean-spirited diatribe."

The response also criticized Arrington - though not by name - for referring to Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua as "Mr. Bevilacqua" and noted that an assistant district attorney did not correct her.

Arrington said that she did not remember calling the cardinal "Mister," but that if she did, it was by accident.

"Cardinal Bevilacqua was the leader of the church," said Arrington, who is not Catholic. "I would never purposely disrespect anyone like that."

The jurors, some of them Catholic, all took pains "not to be anti-anything," she added.

Arrington said her term on the grand jury began in September 2003, when about 30 people responded to a jury summons. They soon learned that they were about to pick up the strands of a year's worth of work by a prior grand jury, whose two-year term had expired.

Arrington's next surprise, she said, was when the presiding judge, Common Pleas Judge Gwendolyn N. Bright, selected her as forewoman.

And so it began, with the grand jury gradually shrinking to about 25 after several members had to drop out because of personal or job conflicts.

"We were there because we were asked to investigate a situation," Arrington said.


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