Hundreds abused by more than 50 priests
The Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, Pa., was blistered in a statewide grand jury report that stated two bishops covered up "the sexual abuse of hundreds of children by more than 50 priests and other religious leaders over a 40-year period."
The Associated Press reported that former bishops James Hogan and Joseph Adamec covered up the widespread abuses, according to the report released March 1, which also alleged the church was instrumental in selecting police chiefs in Altoona and Johnstown in the 1980s.
The 147-page report was based partly on evidence from a secret diocesan archive opened through a search warrant last summer. No criminal charges are being filed because some alleged abusers have died, the statute of limitations has expired or victims are too traumatized to testify, said Attorney General Kathleen Kane. "Their souls were killed as children," Kane said. "They weren't out playing baseball; they were trying to avoid priests."
Adamec cited possible self-incrimination in refusing to testify before the grand jury. Hogan is dead. Mark Bartchak, the current bishop who has suspended several priests named as abusers in the report, was faulted over concerns "the purge of predators is taking too long."
The report referred to a "payout chart" used by the diocese: Victims fondled over their clothes were to be paid $10,000 to $25,000; fondled under their clothes or subjected to masturbation, $15,000 to $40,000; subjected to forced oral sex, $25,000 to $75,000; subjected to forced sodomy or intercourse, $50,000 to $175,000.
See the entire grand jury report at bit.ly/1QTrvse (includes very graphic content).
Cardinal: Church 'mucked things up'
Vatican treasurer Cardinal George Pell, the third most powerful official in the Catholic Church, admitted that the church had "mucked things up" over the sexual abuse scandal.
Pell, from Australia, is the highest-ranking church official to testify on sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.
Giving evidence in front of abuse victims at the same time the movie "Spotlight" was winning the Academy Award for Best Picture, Pell said the organization reflected society as a whole and there was a "tendency to evil in the Catholic Church, too."
"Spotlight" is the story of the Boston Globe team of investigative reporters who uncovered the massive scale of child sexual abuse and ensuing cover-up that happened under the watch of Cardinal Bernard Law in Boston.
Pell was expected to clarify whether he knew that a number of priests were abusing children in the diocese near Melbourne, where he served as a senior priest and vicar from 1973–1983.
Pell is not facing criminal charges, but his position as the Vatican's economic secretary could be in jeopardy if evidence shows that he either ignored or protected abusers.
"I'm not here to defend the indefensible," Pell said. "The Church has made enormous mistakes and is working to remedy those, but the Church in many places, certainly in Australia, has mucked things up, has let people down."
Vatican: Bishops not obliged to report abuse
The Catholic Church has told its new bishops that it is not necessarily their duty to report accusations of clerical child abuse and that only victims or their families should make the decision to report abuse to police.
A document, recently released by the Vatican, tells bishops how they should deal with abuse allegations, saying they must be aware of local laws, but that their only duty was to address those allegations internally.
"According to the state of civil laws of each country where reporting is obligatory, it is not necessarily the duty of the bishop to report suspects to authorities, the police or state prosecutors in the moment when they are made aware of crimes or sinful deeds," the document states.
SNAP, a U.S.-based advocacy group for abuse victims, said the news outlined in John Allen's Crux article proved that the church had not substantially changed.
"It's infuriating, and dangerous, that so many believe the myth that bishops are changing how they deal with abuse and that so little attention is paid when evidence to the contrary — like this disclosure by Allen — emerges," the group said in a statement.
Judge: Law violates priest's religious freedom
A Louisiana judge on Feb. 26 struck down a state requirement that clergy members report suspected child abuse, even if they learn about it during a private confessional.
State District Judge Mike Caldwell ruled that the requirement violates the constitutionally protected religious freedom rights of a Roman Catholic priest accused of neglecting his duty to report a teenager's abuse allegations to authorities.
The Baton Rouge Advocate reports that Caldwell ruled in favor of the Rev. Jeff Bayhi in a lawsuit that Rebecca Mayeaux filed against the priest and the Roman Catholic Diocese.