Shamefully, the stories are plentiful, one as shockingly awful as the next.
The Catholic Church continues to sit at the center of a most sinister scandal in which, for almost a century, priests have molested young parishioners.
A Pennsylvania grand jury report released last week revealed that more than 1,000 children had been abused since the 1940s by priests in the Roman Catholic Church.
State Attorney General Josh Shapiro released the report that identified more than 300 Roman Catholic priests who committed acts ranging from groping and masturbation to anal, oral and vaginal rape.
Reportedly, in the District, survivor hotlines are being inundated with calls from new victims of priest sexual abuse.
This follows the Pennsylvania report which named more than 300 so-called “predator priests” and criticized the archbishop of Washington, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, for allegedly covering up their offenses during his service in Pittsburgh.
Now, thousands are calling for his resignation online.
“We’ve been getting calls from new survivors who saw their perpetrators name in the report as well as just survivors who are reading the report and feeling sad and feeling like they need to talk with someone,” Becky Ianni, who leads the local chapter of Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests, told WTOP.
A survivor of clergy abuse herself, Ianni said the Pennsylvania grand jury’s report shows the church cannot be trusted to protect children. She cited specific cases where Wuerl is named in the report that alleges he covered up known offenders.
“It leaves a lot of confusion,” she said. “There’s a lot of distrust now. There’s a lot of anger especially here in the Washington, D.C., area, a lot of people want Cardinal Wuerl to step down.”
As of last week, more than 32,000 people had signed a Change.org petition calling for Wuerl’s removal.
“We feel that the pope should demand that he should step down. I’m tired of the pope accepting resignations and not really stating why. Cardinal Wuerl has put innocent children in harm’s way so he needs to step down,” Ianni said.
Attempts to reach the archbishop for a comment regarding the public calls for his resignation have not been successful.
The Pennsylvania grand jury was convened by Shapiro’s office in 2016 for the purpose of reviewing cases involving the Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh and Scranton dioceses.
The Archdiocese of Philadelphia issued its own statement upon the release of the grand jury’s findings:
The Attorney General’s investigation and subsequent grand jury report involving six Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania has been broad and the content has been difficult to read. The material is painful for everyone, most especially survivors of sexual abuse and their loved ones. We deeply regret their pain and remain focused on a path toward healing. It is important to note that the archdiocese was not subject to the grand jury investigation and is not part of this report. However, that fact in no way eases our responsibility and longstanding efforts to ensure the safety of children and families in our Church environments.
The response from Philadelphia did not address two grand jury reports from 2005 and 2011 that found more than 60 priests in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia abused dozens of victims.
Reportedly, many had ties to Delaware County.
“So when I hear that Philadelphia isn’t taking responsibility for this finding, it sickens me because they are guilty, too,” said Eileen, who noted that both a son and daughter of hers were victims. “I had to live through it twice. Two times I had to find out the unthinkable and each was just as painful as the other and my faith in the church was damaged each time.”
Time magazine reported that the Vatican expressed “shame and sorrow” about the scathing Pennsylvania grand jury report about clergy who raped and molested children in six dioceses and decried the abuse as “criminally and morally reprehensible.”
In uncharacteristically strong language for the Holy See even in matters like the long-running abuse scandals staining the U.S. church, Vatican spokesman Greg Burke said that victims should know “the pope is on their side.”
Pope Francis did not issue a comment for the statement.
Tim Lennon, president of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, applauded Shapiro, his staff and officials in Pennsylvania where grand juries were used to shine light on what he said were long-hidden church secrets.
“We also believe that more can and should be done by law enforcement at the county level to go after these wrongdoers,” Lennon said. “With thousands of police, prosecutors and victims in Pennsylvania, we find it very hard to believe that not a single complicit current or former church official who concealed child sex crimes can now be charged with obstruction, fraud, perjury, destroying evidence, intimidating witnesses, endangering children, or similar offenses.
“Remember: Al Capone was nailed for income tax evasion,” he said. “And prosecutors in recent years have developed new techniques for going after gangs and white-collar crimes.”
SNAP has renewed its call for legislators to help deter crimes and cover-ups by enacting a civil “window” that will enable victims to expose molesters and their allies in court.
“This is the single most effective step Pennsylvania politicians can take to make an immediate difference in this crisis,” Lennon said.