Study Finds More Than 1000 Children Abused by Catholic Priests in Pennsylvania

by John McKiggan

A recent report published by the New York Times found that more than 300 Roman Catholic priests in Pennsylvania had sexually abused over 1,000 children over a period of 70 years. The report covers six of the state’s eight Catholic dioceses, the Grand Jury Report is the broadest investigation ever carried out by a government agency of child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.

Evidence of Cover-up Within the Church

Even more unsettling than the horrifying number of victims is the fact that bishops and other church leaders—well aware that sexual abuse was happening within their ranks—covered up the abuse by persuading victims against reporting their abusers, and convincing law enforcement officials not to investigate any claims made.

We believe that this is not only a slap in the face to victims, but that it also has played a main role in perpetuating the cycle of child sexual abuse by Catholic priests for generations.

Canadian Priest Abuse Survivors Come Forward

In Canada, McKiggan Hebert has recently been asked to represent Douglas Champagne against the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Halifax-Yarmouth in a class-action suit. Champagne, reports being abused by priest George G. Epoch while serving as an altar boy at Canadian Martyr’s Church in the 1960s. More information about our class-action suit against the Archdiocese can be found here.

A Generational Concern

The grand jury who issued the report in mid-August reported that “Church officials followed a ‘playbook for concealing the truth,’ minimizing the abuse by using words like ‘inappropriate contact’ instead of ‘rape,’ assigning priests untrained in sexual abuse cases to investigate their colleagues, and not informing the community of the real reasons behind removing an accused priest.”

Repeated scandals and child sexual abuse allegations against the Catholic Church have shaken the institution to its core in the past two decades as more victims and dissidents have come forward to speak out against their abusers and the people protecting them. As more victims continue to come forward with their stories, it has become clear that these “incidents” are not just unique occurrences—they are part of a far more systemic issue that spans at least sixty to seventy years into the past.

Justice for Victims of Child Sexual Abuse

Surrounded by over twenty victims named in the report, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro stated that it was found that “[The Catholic Church] protected their institution at all costs. As the grand jury found, the church showed a complete disdain for victims.” This same grand jury, who reviewed 500,000 documents from the dioceses’ secret archives, are certain that many more victims have yet to come forward out of fear or shame. “[The Church] wanted to cover up the cover-up,” he said.

What can we learn from the grand jury’s statement in Pennsylvania?

  • The Catholic Church has the same “secret archives” meant to hide allegations of child sexual abuse in the United States, as they do in Canada.
  • The Catholic Church has made the same attempts to “cover up” child sexual abuse claims in the United States, as they have in Canada.
  • The Catholic Church has repeatedly refused to disclose the names of abusive priests to churchgoers in the United States, as they have in Canada.

We believe that now, more than ever, it is important that the Catholic Church be held accountable for their actions in Canada, the United States and across the globe. Victims have had the courage to disclose what happened to them, only to be persuaded not to pursue charges or having their claims “covered up,” leaving victims in the dark and afraid that their abusers will never be held responsible for their actions.

Contact an Experienced Child Sexual Abuse Lawyer Today

If you or a loved one has ever experienced child sexual abuse at the hands of a Catholic priest, you are probably already well aware of the allegations of cover-ups and shaming used by the Church in an attempt to protect those in their ranks. We believe that this is not only an insult to abuse survivors—who want nothing more than to find solace in knowing that their abusers are being held accountable—but also creates a danger to those who may still be taken advantage of by the Church.

Our current class-action lawsuit against the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Halifax-Yarmouth is ongoing. At McKiggan Hebert, we believe in empowering abuse survivors to share their stories and hold their abusers accountable, in the hope that this can help end the cycle of child sexual abuse.

For more information about the Archdiocese of Halifax-Yarmouth Sexual Abuse Class Action, fill out a confidential interview form at the bottom of the class action page or contact McKiggan Hebert today.

Need More Information?

It can be incredibly difficult for abuse survivors to talk about what happened to them. Whether it stems from the trauma of the incident, a fear of retaliation or a sense of deep shame that the abuse ever occurred in the first place, pain and anxiety following sexual abuse can create a silence that lasts a lifetime and traps survivors in their most painful memories.

But remaining silent protects the abusers and those that enabled them. With 1 in 3 females and 1 in 6 males reporting sexual abuse before age 17, ending the cycle of abuse starts with one thing—speaking up.

That’s why we wrote Breaking the Silence: The Survivor’s Guide to Abuse Compensation Claims. We hope that by reading our resource guide, abuse survivors can learn about their legal options confidentially, within the privacy of their homes. Seeking help for yourself—and helping others—starts with breaking the silence.

Interested in a free copy of our guide? Contact us or call us today to discuss your case and receive a free copy of Breaking the Silence: The Survivor’s Guide to Abuse Compensation Claims.

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