Over the past few years, the Catholic Church in Pennsylvania has faced increased scrutiny over allegations of widespread cover-ups of child molestation by priests and other church employees. In 2011, Pennsylvania became the first state in the U.S. to bring charges against a church official, a monsignor, alleging that the church endangered the welfare of children by failing to remove offending priests from the ministry. The charges resulted in a conviction and has since been the subject of multiple appeals. As of September 2016, the monsignor is set to be retried by the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office. Get the latest on this landmark priest sex abuse case, Commonwealth v. William J. Lynn.
The Catholic Church’s priest sex abuse scandal began in Philadelphia. Over a decade ago, a grand jury investigated the Philadelphia Archdiocese and determined that over 60 priests had molested children over a period of 50 years. The report described how church officials took steps to protect predator priests over innocent children. Priests were routinely transferred from parish to parish and involvement by law enforcement was avoided. Victims and their parents were silenced. In 2011, a second grand jury investigated the same diocese and found that the church failed to take any real action after the first grand jury report. In the 2011 report, jurors indicated frustration with the church:
“The present grand jury, however, is frustrated to report that much has not changed. The rapist priests we accuse were well known to the Secretary of Clergy, but he cloaked their conduct and put them in place to do it again. The procedures implemented by the Archdiocese to help victims are in fact designed to help the abusers, and the Archdiocese itself. Worst of all, apparent abusers – dozens of them, we believe – remain on duty in the Archdiocese, today, with open access to new young prey that the church had failed to take action.”
The 2011 grand jury zeroed in on Monsignor William Lynn. One section of the report was entitled, “How Monsignor Lynn Endangered Children.” As a result of that report, Lynn was arrested and prosecuted, and other priests were removed from the ministry. See more about the removal of priests accused of sex abuse of children.
Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown – Pattern of Priest Sex Abuse of Children
Earlier this year, another catholic diocese in Pennsylvania faced similar allegations of massive cover-ups of child molestation by priests. This one involved the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown. A grand jury convened by the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office conducted a weeks long investigated and issued a scathing report. It revealed that hundreds of children were sexually molested by priests over the course of 40 years. The allegations were strikingly familiar to those lodged against the Philadelphia Archdiocese – moving predator priests from parish to parish, sweeping reports of molestation of children under the rug and failing to contact law enforcement. Currently, there are multiple criminal cases involving the dioceses. Criminal cases are pending against a priest, a school employee and 3 friars.
Six More Dioceses Under Investigation
Now, six more dioceses in Pennsylvania are under investigation. According to a Pennsylvania news outlet, Catholic dioceses in Allentown, Harrisburg, Erie, Greensburg, Pittsburgh and Scranton have received subpoenas from the PA Attorney General’s office. *Source: www.mcall.com, Six of state’s eight Catholic dioceses under investigation
These recent investigations underscore the pervasive nature of sex abuse in large institutions like churches, schools, etc. Time and time again, churches and schools have taken great pains to protect sexual predators and insulate themselves from any negative attention. Historically, the Catholic Church has been particularly problematic. The grand juries which investigated both dioceses in Philadelphia and Altoona-Johnstown showed that literally hundreds of children were abused by over 100 priests over decades. What’s worse is that the reports showed that church officials hid the abuse and shielded the predators and that this in turn allowed predators to claim additional victims.
Given the pattern of abuse and the pattern of protecting abusers from punishment, it is practically all but certain that the new grand jury investigations into additional dioceses in Pennsylvania will show what we already know. Stay tuned. If grand juries are indeed empaneled, we may see reports by the end of the year or the beginning of 2017. In the meantime, visit our law library for info about sex abuse lawsuits and criminal cases.
Laffey, Bucci & Kent – Fighting for the Rights of Sex Abuse, Assault Victims
Our attorneys are recognized as leaders and have been rated as top lawyers in Philadelphia. Firm founders, Jeff Laffey, Paul Bucci and Brian Kent, are trailblazers in the area of crime victim rights. In 2009, they took on a child molestation case against a sitting state court judge in Delaware. Despite receiving backlash from the local legal community, the firm persevered on behalf of their client, an adult man who was molested years ago by a family friend who went on to become a judge. The judge ultimately admitted to the abuse.
The firm also handles sex assault and abuse cases against churches, schools, etc. To speak to our lawyers about a potential sex abuse case, call our Philadelphia office at (866) 641-0806.
**This website does not provide legal advice. Every case is unique and it is crucial to get a qualified, expert legal opinion prior to making any decisions about your case. See the full disclaimer at the bottom of this page.