Alleged Priest Abuse Victims Updated on Delayed Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report
By Steve Esack
June 29, 2018
|Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro held a two-hour meeting Thursday with adults who testified in a grand jury about child sex abuse they experienced growing up in Catholic dioceses. The state Supreme Court halted Shapiro's planned publication of the report.|
One said he was an ex-priest turned whistleblower about the sexual abuse of children. Another said as a boy he was plied by a priest with porn and attacked in a cheap motel. And one woman described how a Bethlehem Township priest abused her as a 12-year-old and later proposed marriage.
Those three adults and others met privately Thursday with Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro and a victims’ advocate for an update —which resembled a therapy session — on how prosecutors were handling a court-ordered delay of a state grand jury report examining sex abuse claims and possible cover-ups in six Catholic dioceses, including Allentown.
“We were all people who testified in front of this grand jury,” said James VanSickle, 55, of Pittsburgh, after the meeting. He said he was abused growing up in Erie by a priest criminally charged as part of the grand jury probe. “Attorney General Shapiro and [assistant state prosecutor Dan] Dye reached out to us to let us know they are working hard, they are doing the things they need to do to get this report released. They put us a little bit at ease. A lot of us victims were appalled and angry and hurt.”
The two-hour meeting was held in Shapiro’s Harrisburg office on the same day Shapiro had planned to hold a news conference and release the grand jury report.
On Monday, the state Supreme Court issued an expanded explanation of its June 20 order halting the report’s publication. The justices postponed the release because “many” people filed appeals complaining the report would tarnish their reputations without providing them the due process right of perhaps challenging their accusers. The justices have not indicated when or if the report would be made public.
In a statement after his meeting on Thursday, Shapiro said: “The voices of these victims, who have held this pain inside themselves for far too long, must not be silenced.”
The grand jury probe began under Shapiro’s predecessor, Kathleen Kane, in 2016. It covered the Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh and Scranton dioceses. It examined “allegations of child sex 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,” according to one of the only public court documents explaining the scope of the investigation.
Two clergymen have been charged with sex abuse of minors as a result of the probe. One charged priest was Rev. David Poulson, 64, of Oil City, who VanSickle said abused him when he was 16. The other was the Rev. John T. Sweeney of the Greensburg Diocese.
In a separate matter, the Allentown Diocese removed Monsignor Francis Nave from his Bath parish after he was accused in a lawsuit filed in Philadelphia Tuesday of sexually abusing a minor during online counseling sessions. The diocese said it also alerted law enforcement.
After spekaing to Shapiro, Patricia Beaumont said she hopes the six dioceses’ bishops will call on the court to release the report, given how they have said they do not want to block its publication.
Growing up in Bethlehem Township, Beaumont said the Rev. Richard Giuliani started abusing her when she was 12 and continued while he was disciplinarian of Notre Dame High School. She said she reported the abuse as a teenager and again as an adult, but both times church officials didn’t believe her and ordered her to confession.
In 2004, Beaumont sued Giuliani, who left the priesthood in 1977.
”I’m grateful to the attorney general and his staff,” Beaumont, 60, said.
James Faluszczak, 49, said he was abused by a priest as a child in Erie. But, his love for Jesus Christ did not stop him from entering the priesthood. It was not until he was arrested for drunken driving that he realized his alcoholism was a result of childhood abuse. Between 2013 and 2016, Faluszczak said he informed his superiors about his first-hand knowledge of clergy and lay officials sexually abusing children. Nothing was done, he said. So he left the priesthood and moved to Buffalo, N.Y., to help other victims.
“I am concerned for hundreds of victims in Pennsylvania because they are hanging by threads,” Faluszczak said.
The court may have locked the victims in a “collective cage,” but Thursday’s meeting helped alleviate concerns, said Jennifer Storm, who runs the state’s office of Victim Advocate. The victims, she said, need to hold out hope that the report will be released soon.