Prosecutor to Press Court to Release Church Abuse Report
By Marc Levy
June 29, 2018
Pennsylvania's highest court is being pressed to publicly release a major grand jury report on allegations of child sexual abuse and cover-ups in six of the state's Roman Catholic dioceses.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro will ask the court to swiftly decide lingering legal issues before it, his office said Friday. He expects to make that request Monday.
"The people of Pennsylvania have a right to see the report, know who is attempting to block its release and why, and to hear the voices of the victims of sexual abuse within the Church," Shapiro said in a statement.
The state Supreme Court is blocking the release of the report as the result of legal challenges filed under seal by people apparently named in the report. The court has declined to make those filings or dockets public, or name the people who filed the challenges.
The Supreme Court's chief justice, Thomas Saylor, declined comment through a spokeswoman, and lawyers for the unnamed people challenging the report did not respond to requests for comment.
Meanwhile, seven news organizations, including The Associated Press, on Friday filed a motion to intervene in the case in a bid to argue that the court should release the report, contending that it is required by law. If the court decides it needs more time to consider the legal challenges, it could immediately order the report's release with only those parts that are in question shielded from view, lawyers for the news organizations wrote.
The court also should be consistent with practice in other grand jury matters and make public the filings and dockets in the case, with redactions if necessary, the news organizations wrote.
Victim advocates have said the report is expected to be the largest and most exhaustive such review by any state. The grand jury spent two years investigating allegations of child sex abuse in the dioceses of Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh and Scranton, churches with some 1.7 million members.
Allegations of child sexual abuse, failing to report it, endangering the welfare of children and obstruction of justice involve not only people associated with the church, but "local public officials and community leaders," according to a court document. Jurors heard from dozens of witnesses and reviewed over half a million pages of internal diocesan documents.
Living people named in the report, but not indicted, were allowed to submit written responses to allegations in the report, to be released along with the report, according to court documents.
The court said in a five-page opinion issued last Monday that most of those people who filed legal challenges claim they are discussed in the report in a way that would violate reputational rights guaranteed by the state constitution and that they have a due process right to be heard by the grand jury.
The justices said they had not seen the entire report and needed time to sort through legal arguments.
The unnamed challengers' claims first became public in an unsealed opinion released last month by Judge Norman Krumenacker, the supervising grand jury judge.
Krumenacker rejected their petition to challenge elements of the grand jury report before it became public, saying such hearings have never been allowed and would "effectively bring the grand jury process to a halt turning each investigation into a full adjudication."