Pennsylvania report to detail decades of sexual abuse by 300 priests
Priest Praying' [Shutterstock]

Decades of child sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priests in Pennsylvania will come under public scrutiny for the first time on Tuesday with the release of a long-delayed report on a grand jury investigation led by the state’s attorney general.

Hundreds of pages long, the report will reveal the findings of one of the most expansive probes into clerical sexual abuse since an expose of widespread abuse and systematic efforts to cover it up rocked the Archdiocese of Boston nearly two decades ago.

The Pennsylvania report will cover 70 years of abuse of children by 300 Roman Catholic priests and how the church sought to cover up the accusations. It follows a nearly two-year-long investigation by Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro.

Some of those accused have tried to stop the release of the report, saying it would unfairly damage their reputations, but prosecutors, abuse advocates and news organizations pushed for its release. Last month, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court allowed the report to go ahead, but with at least some names redacted.

It ordered the report be released by 2 p.m. EDT (1800 GMT) on Tuesday.

In anticipation of the release, Harrisburg’s bishop earlier this month released the names of more than 70 clergy members and seminarians accused of sexually abusing children since the 1940s. The names of the diocese bishops who supervised them, he promised, would be removed from diocesan buildings and “any position of honor” throughout central Pennsylvania.

But at the time, Shapiro said in a statement that the Diocese of Harrisburg had failed to cooperate and “sought to end the investigation entirely.”

Since the Boston abuse scandal first erupted in the 1990s, fresh accusations involving American clerics have sporadically surfaced, further tarnishing the church’s public image.

Theodore McCarrick, a former archbishop of Washington, resigned in disgrace as a cardinal last month after accusations that he abused a 16-year-old boy decades ago resurfaced.

In recent months, Pope Francis has accepted a flurry of resignations as church sex abuse scandals have erupted from Chile to Argentina.

The dioceses included in the Pennsylvania report, initiated in 2016 under then-Attorney General Kathleen Kane, are Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, Allentown, Scranton, Erie and Greensburg.

The state’s two other dioceses were the subjects of past grand jury investigations - the Philadelphia Archdiocese in 2005 and the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown in 2016.

Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Paul Simao