Catholic Churches Get Grand Jury Report on Sexual Abuse before Its Public Release
By Debra Erdley
May 25, 2018
Mark Rozzi's phone rang relentlessly after an Erie newspaper reported Thursday that a judge released copies of a statewide grand jury report on sexual abuse in six Catholic dioceses to church officials more than a month before it is to be released publicly.
Rozzi, a Democratic state representative from Berks County, has been a lightning rod for victims since publicly accusing a priest of molesting him more than 30 years ago and then testifying before the grand jury, which completed its investigation last month.
“To myself and other victims, it's that feeling of outrage again,” Rozzi told the Tribune-Review on Friday. “Why do we always cater to them? They are the ones who committed these crimes, and we're still giving them special treatment.”
Attorney General Josh Shapiro on Monday said he expects to release the report that examined allegations of abuse going back decades in six Catholic dioceses in late June. The probe included the dioceses in Allentown, Scranton, Erie, Greensburg, Pittsburgh and Harrisburg.
The same week the Greensburg diocese agreed that the report should be made public, church officials wouldn't say Friday whether they already have a copy.
Pittsburgh attorney Mark Rush, who represents the Erie diocese, said Cambria County Judge Norman Krumenacker III signed an order releasing the report. All six dioceses are believed to have received a copy, Rush said.
Shapiro this week commended the dioceses for going on record in support of the publication and suggested they could have put up roadblocks to its release.
Joe Grace, a spokesman for the attorney general, declined to comment on reports that the entire 884-page report had been released to diocesan officials or that their responses might be included in the final, public release.
“Pursuant to the law and our strict adherence to the statute and process, we cannot yet comment on the grand jury report on sexual abuse within the Catholic Church or its dissemination and timing,” Grace said.
To date, the grand jury probe has yielded two criminal charges: one each against priests in the Greensburg and Erie dioceses.
A spokesman for the Greensburg diocese declined to discuss whether it will issue a written response to the grand jury report.
“We have said throughout the process since the subpoenas were issued in 2016 that we are going to wait until the full report is out before making any decision on how to respond,” diocesan spokesman Jerry Zufelt said.
Elsewhere, the response already seems to be under way.
In Erie, the diocese recently posted the names and dispositions of 57 individuals for whom the church has received credible allegations of child sexual abuse or misconduct.
In Greensburg, the most recent diocesan statement of acts against children dates to March 30, 2016.
In it, the diocese said a review of the personnel files of all priests who had served since 1951 found allegations of improper conduct against eight priests dating back to 1962. The diocese said all of those accused have left active ministry, either by retirement, resignation or removal.
The diocese did not publicly name those clergy but said all allegations were forwarded to the district attorney, who filed no charges.
The church's insurance carriers, however, have paid out $667,711 in settlements since the Greensburg diocese formed in 1951, including one for $267,700 that settled in the early 1980s, according to the diocesan statement.
Victims' advocates hope the report reveals names and sheds light on such actions.
“Parents and parishioners need to know who the known, credible predators are so they can protect their children from harm. Additionally, it is imperative that these reports are made public so that those who enabled and covered up sex crimes can be exposed and held accountable,” said Judy Jones, Midwest coordinator for SNAP, an abuse survivors support group.
Jones shared Rozzi's outrage that the church would be given advance copies of the report.
Rozzi said the network of suffering reaches well beyond the victims. Others, he said, are waiting for justice.
“I heard from the mother of one of my other good friends who was abused, who overdosed and died. I heard from his mom this morning and she asked, ‘When is this going to come out?' She had to testify on behalf of her son,” he said. “This not just affecting victims. It is affecting their family members and the people who are tied to these victims.”
Debra Erdley is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-320-7996 or email@example.com or via Twitter @deberdley_trib.