Editorial | Victims deserve release of dioceses reports without further delay
By John Rucosky
June 24, 2018
| Norman Krumenacker, Cambria County president judge, talks in his chambers at the Cambria County Courthouse on Monday, July 3, 2017.|
The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania must move forward with the release of reports into child sexual abuse in six of the state’s dioceses.
Residents and parishioners in those regions – and especially abuse victims – deserve the right to have this information made public without further delay.
On Wednesday, the high court delayed the release of reports for dioceses based in Pittsburgh, Greensburg, Erie, Harrisburg, Allentown and Scranton.
We had expected the presentments to be made public this week.
Cambria County President Judge Norman Krumenacker – who oversees the grand jury process – had appropriately denied requests from representatives of some of those dioceses to hold evidentiary hearings for the purpose of disputing some findings before the information was released.
Krumenacker said that all six dioceses were permitted to appear before the grand jury, but only the Erie group did so. The Erie diocese also has been proactive in releasing the names of those who will face allegations within its ranks.
Mike Barley, a spokesperson for the Diocese of Harrisburg, told our sister newspaper, The Daily Item of Sunbury, that his organization has not taken steps to have the reports delayed, but said “it is critical that this report is accurate.”
Releasing this information is an important step in the painful process of addressing and then preventing child abuse and bringing some justice for the many victims who have suffered alone because of the crimes of those who violated them, as well as those who enabled and shielded those offenders – both within the church and in secular circles.
The Cambria judge called the reports “the culmination of two years of investigation into the dioceses related to allegations of child sexual abuse, failure to make a mandatory report, acts endangering the welfare of children and obstruction of justice by individuals associated with the Roman Catholic Church, local public officials and community leaders.”
Of course, here in the Altoona-Johnstown diocese region, we are very familiar with such investigations.
Two years ago, the state Office of Attorney General reported that as many as 50 priests had engaged in child sexual abuse over several decades, and that diocese leaders had taken steps to shield those priests from prosecution while moving them from parish to parish.
A similar report was handed down in Philadelphia in 2005.
We understand that church leaders in these areas would prefer to control the fallout from these moments, which will be shocking revelations in every community within those dioceses.
But we side with legal professionals and victims advocates who have said the information – troubling though it will be – must be made public.
For too long, child sexual abuse has been a hidden crime in our society and within the church.
“My legal team and I will continue fighting tirelessly to make sure the victims of this abuse are able to tell their stories and the findings of this investigation are made public to the people of Pennsylvania,” state Attorney General Josh Shapiro said Wednesday.
Pat Bruno, medical director of the Child Advocacy Center of the Central Susquehanna Valley, told The Daily Item that the abuse information “will eventually come out, one way or another. It’s important, for the sake of the victims, that we know who the perpetrators are.”
Bruno added: “When the names of the abusers are disclosed, this will be a validation of what these victims have been through. It will also ensure that the church then must deal with these abusers.”
Tim Lennon, president of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), called for the state Supreme Court to not only lift its stay on the release of the abuse report, but to also make public the identities of those who pushed for the suppression of that information.
“What is particularly frustrating is that we have no information about the unnamed individuals or institutions who requested this delay,” Lennon said in a statement emailed to media.
“While the bishops in all six dioceses have stated publicly that they would not block the release of the report, we remain very suspicious that the delay was orchestrated by church officials.”
Suspicions can only be allayed by clarity and honesty – and only when even ugly and painful realities are pulled into the light.
The reputations of powerful individuals and institutions can not stand above justice for the victims of child sexual abuse.
That was the lesson of the scandals at Penn State University and within the Catholic Church in Boston, Philadelphia and here in the Johnstown region.
The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania must step aside and allow the truth to come forward.