Catholic Priests Abused 1,000 Children in Pennsylvania

Hope your summer has been peaceful. Please read & repost this, so as many people as possible get the urgency of supporting the work of HFC.



From The 8//15/18 New York Times:  Catholic Priests Abused 1,000 Children in Pennsylvania – The grand jury report is the government’s broadest look yet in the United States at child sexual abuse in the church — Go to NY Times here or read article below

I’m bringing this article to your attention to highlight the enormous challenge we face in this country and around the world in protecting our children, and I’m speaking of the most innocent amongst us, including those as young as 1year old, from attack by predators in our midst that we least suspect. How as parents, grandparents, neighbors and concerned citizens do we accomplish watching over them when they are not directly in our view? How to be like the proverbial Hawk, forever circling in the sky above and never out of sight. How to do that?

It often concerns us to drop them off and drive away, hoping but never totally sure that they will return at the expected hour, unharmed. And oh, when we read a story like this it can churn our guts. We may feel like phew! – We escaped it this time, thank the lord, those poor other parents. We may check our kids in bed asleep, a little more regularly to make sure they’re really there and safely resting before we turn off the light ourselves. For a while at least. Then we go back to normal. Until the next story appears.

This Pennsylvania tale of woe has been unfolding for some time. It was first alluded to over a year ago when the investigation was just getting legs. It says there have been more than 1,000 confirmed cases of church based abuse in the state of Pennsylvania. But the article suggests that due to lost or destroyed records and reticence/embarrassment to report, the real number is multiples higher. It is essentially a repeat of the trauma suffered and reported by the Boston Globe, and dramatized in the movie “Spotlight”.

It likewise speaks of how many years, that some victims carry their stories in their guts before finally spitting them out, their pain, and in the most unfortunate cases, their suicides or attempts. It talks about how laws about statute of limitations, protect the guilty from prosecution. The rationale for such laws, the guilty claim, is that after a certain number of years the victims memory blurs. They forget the details and make false accusations that cannot be trusted.

Victims however, say that even 40 years later they remember every detail as though it happened yesterday. I believe the victims. I know from first hand experience how true that is. It is not the reason I usually state for having started Help For Children/Hedge Funds Care (HFC) in 1998. I have another well rehearsed story I tell to explain why I chose child abuse as the cause. Like other victims, I don’t like talking about the really, deep truth of it. In fact, I never reported it to my parents (too late now) my teachers my Principle or anyone else. Yet the palpable effects hung around for many years and even now, 60 years later are burned like a branding into my psyche.

I know those victims are telling the truth. A pissed off child might make something up to punish a parent they want to rebel against, which usually ends up as trauma for parent and child alike. But its not something a person makes up years later. There’s no reason to report an incident or series of them years after the fact, except to finally deal with the pain of it.

In fact, at this very moment HFC has a tremendous compatriot in the quest to help victims of abuse named Christian Griffith, who is close to completing a 3,000 mile run across America to highlight the issue. His goal is to give victims of abuse the courage to speak out and seek counseling, like he finally did in his 40’s, after years of hurting. Yes, extreme athlete Christian is about to cross the Golden Gate bridge to complete his mission, oh behalf of Check it out. If inspired, please make a donation to thank Christian for his Herculean effort to help abuse survivors recover.  (See Donate Button below.)

Hedge Funds Care/Help For Children was started in 1998 with the mission off preventing child abuse and providing treatment to those who have been victimized. It began with the idea of having one party, in New York City. It was supported by companies and individuals in the hedge fund industry, and more than 400 people attended on a cold night in February. It was called “The Open Your Heart To Children Benefit” and turned out to be a first of its kind, industry networking event, a really great party, and the beginning of an international movement to protect children.

Today HFC has branches in twelve cities, in seven countries, on four continents, all devoted to saving children from the trauma of abuse. The good news is that over that period more than $55million has been donated through more than 1,000 grants, to best of breed programs focused on preventing and treating child abuse. HFC has funded the clinical treatment for thousands of children identified by the authorities as being victims of abuse, and addressed many more thousands of children, parents, police, teachers and others through programs aimed at prevention.

The challenge has always been and remains, that every year there are many programs that are worthy of support but left off the list for lack off the necessary money to help them all. At the core of the challenge is the fact that child abuse is at the very bottom on the barrel of funding for important childhood issues. This is a conundrum, considering the importance of protecting our children from being victimized. The explanation is that the majority of funding for any important childhood issue comes from the parents of the children who are afflicted. Yet in the case of child abuse, for obvious reasons, there is no such parental constituency. Moreover, it is only when there are shocking reports like this one, that public outrage flares up, for a short period of time.

My parting shot — The Church is already lobbying to prevent the extension of statute of limitation laws, for victims of child abuse to have the opportunity to nail their attackers. They know better than anyone, that many people are too traumatized to come forward within existing time frames, allowing perpetrators to escape proper retribution for way too long. They’ve been getting away it for decades. Church leadership say they’ve already instituted reforms, everything’s under control, and we should all pray for the victims and move on. Of course, they do.

Its time!!! In fact, we are now witnessing many examples of the other side of this kind of obfuscation playing out in various segments of life, meaning people finally getting nailed for their evil doings after years of abusing their positions off trust or power over others. In his amazing “Essay on Compensation,” Emerson writes, “the offense and the punishment grow out of the same stem, but the retribution may be spread over time.” So true. Think of Rajaratnam, Weinstein, Madoff, Nassar et al.  All of these villains demonstrate that if one is clever, conniving or rich enough, they can misuse their power of choice, the very quality that separates humans from all other living creatures, to stave off judgement day for some period of time.

In one particularly chilling detail of a 1962 cover-up included in the investigation conducted by this latest Pennsylvania Grand Jury, the former District Attorney, stunningly testified that he had squashed a report about a priest who was caught molesting boys, because he had wanted the church’s support for his political career! Over the next few years, that priest was transferred three times, on each occasion with Pittsburgh Bishops attesting to his fitness as a priest. Wow! How many times has that happened…one might ask?

Catholic Priests Abused 1,000 Children in Pennsylvania, Report Says

By Laurie Goodstein and Sharon Otterman

Bishops and other leaders of the Roman Catholic Church in Pennsylvania covered up child sexual abuse by more than 300 priests over a period of 70 years, persuading victims not to report the abuse and law enforcement not to investigate it, according to a searing report issued by a grand jury on Tuesday.

The report, which covered six of the state’s eight Catholic dioceses and found more than 1,000 identifiable victims, is the broadest examination yet by a government agency in the United States of child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. The report said there are likely thousands more victims whose records were lost or who were too afraid to come forward.

It catalogs horrific instances of abuse: a priest who raped a young girl in the hospital after she had her tonsils out; a victim tied up and whipped with leather straps by a priest; and another priest who was allowed to stay in ministry after impregnating a young girl and arranging for her to have an abortion.

The sexual abuse scandal has shaken the Catholic Church for more than 15 years, ever since explosive allegations emerged out of Boston in 2002. But even after paying billions of dollars in settlements and adding new prevention programs, the church has been dogged by a scandal that is now reaching its highest ranks. The Pennsylvania report comes soon after the resignation of Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington, who is accused of sexually abusing young priests and seminarians, as well as minors.

“Despite some institutional reform, individual leaders of the church have largely escaped public accountability,” the grand jury wrote. “Priests were raping little boys and girls, and the men of God who were responsible for them not only did nothing; they hid it all. For decades.”

The grand jury said that while some accused priests were removed from ministry, the church officials who protected them remained in office or even got promotions. One bishop named in the report as vouching for an abusive priest was Cardinal Donald Wuerl, now the archbishop of Washington. “Until that changes, we think it is too early to close the book on the Catholic Church sex scandal,” the jury wrote.

The report is unlikely to lead to new criminal charges or civil lawsuits under the current law because the statute of limitations has expired. Only two of the cases in the report so far have led to criminal charges.

[Read about how Catholics are reacting to the shocking report here.]

In statements released on Tuesday, Pennsylvania’s Catholic bishops called for prayers for victims and for the church, promised greater openness and said that measures instituted in recent years were already making the church safer.

But several bishops, including Bishop David A. Zubik of Pittsburgh, rejected the idea the church had concealed abuse.

“There was no cover-up going on,” Bishop Zubik said in a news conference on Tuesday. “I think that it’s important to be able to state that. We have over the course of the last 30 years, for sure, been transparent about everything that has in fact been transpiring.”

Church officials followed a “playbook for concealing the truth,” the grand jury said, 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.

“Tell his parishioners that he is on ‘sick leave,’ or suffering from ‘nervous exhaustion.’ Or say nothing at all,” the report said.

Attorney General Josh Shapiro, whose office initiated the investigation, said in a news conference, “They protected their institution at all costs. As the grand jury found, the church showed a complete disdain for victims.”

He said that the cover-up by senior church officials “stretched in some cases all the way up to the Vatican.”

No other state has seen more grand jury investigations of abuses in the church than Pennsylvania, where about one of every four residents is Catholic and the local attorneys general have been particularly responsive to victims. Previous grand juries examined the dioceses of Philadelphia and Altoona-Johnstown; the new report covers the rest of the state.

Mr. Shapiro was surrounded on Tuesday by about 20 abuse victims and their family members, who gasped and wept when he revealed that one priest had abused five sisters in the same family, including one girl beginning when she was 18 months old.

Some victims said in interviews that they were relieved to finally be heard and to have their perpetrators publicly named.

“I had gone to two bishops with allegations over five years, and they ignored and downplayed my allegations,” said the Rev. James Faluszczak, an Erie priest on extended leave who was abused as a child and who testified before the grand jury. “It’s that very management of secrets that has given cover to predators.”

For others, it was too little, too late. Frances Samber, whose brother Michael was abused by a priest in Pittsburgh and committed suicide in 2010, said, “It’s good that the public sees this, but where is the justice? What do you do about it? Why aren’t these people in prison?”

There has been no comprehensive measurement of the full scope of child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church in the United States, though somehave tried. American abuse survivors have pushed for years for the government to undertake a nationwide inquiry similar to the one conducted in Australia, where a royal commission spent four years examining the sexual abuse of children by a variety of religious and civic institutions, including the Catholic Church.

Grand Jury Report on Catholic Church Sex Abuse in Pennsylvania

The grand jury report is the government’s broadest look yet in the United States at child sexual abuse in the church.

There have been 10 previous reports by grand juries and attorneys generalin the United States, according to the research and advocacy group, but those examined single dioceses or counties.

The Pennsylvania grand jury report lands as the sex abuse scandal in the church has reached a new stage, with calls to discipline bishops who sexually abused younger priests and seminarians, or who have covered up for abusive colleagues.

Catholics are calling for independent investigations into why Cardinal McCarrick was advanced up the hierarchy despite warnings to his superiors in Rome and fellow bishops that he had molested seminarians and young priests. Cardinal McCarrick resigned in July over allegations of sexually abusing minors, but since then priests in the diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska, and seminarians in Boston and elsewhere have publicly accused their superiors of turning a blind eye to sexual misconduct.

The Pennsylvania grand jury met for two years, reviewed 500,000 documents from dioceses’ secret archives, and heard testimony from dozens of victims and the bishop of Erie. The report covers the dioceses of Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh and Scranton. Two of the dioceses — Greensburg and Harrisburg — tried to quash the grand jury investigation last year, but later backed off that stance.

The report lists each of the accused priests and documents how they were sent from parish to parish, and even sometimes out of state. The grand jury said that while the list is long, “we don’t think we got them all.” The report added, “We feel certain that many victims never came forward, and that the dioceses did not create written records every single time they heard something about abuse.”

In the Greensburg diocese, the Rev. John Sweeney was charged by the attorney general’s office with sexually abusing a boy in the early 1990s. Father Sweeney pleaded guilty this month and awaits sentencing. In the Erie diocese, the Rev. David Poulson was arrested in May and charged with sexually assaulting a boy for eight years, starting at age 8. Father Poulson has yet to enter a plea.

The Pennsylvania State Legislature has so far resisted calls to lift the statute of limitations, which has prevented childhood victims from filing civil lawsuits against the church after they turn 30. For many victims, it has taken decades to gain the courage to speak about the abuse, long past when the law would allow them to sue.

The grand jury and the attorney general strongly recommended that the statute of limitations be extended in civil and criminal cases. They recommended opening a temporary “window” that would permit older victims to file civil lawsuits against perpetrators, and the church.

The church has lobbied against any change to the statute or to open such a window, its efforts led by Bishop Ronald W. Gainer of Harrisburg, president of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference. But abuse survivors and advocates say that in September they plan to begin a fresh campaign to press lawmakers and Bishop Gainer to drop their opposition.

“If this doesn’t start a serious debate on the elimination of the statute of limitation, there’s something seriously wrong with my fellow Pennsylvanians,” said Shaun Dougherty, now 48, who testified before the Altoona-Johnstown grand jury about being abused by a priest for three years starting at age 10.

About two dozen people named in the report petitioned the court to have their names redacted from it.

In the news conference, Mr. Shapiro, the attorney general, described the “intense legal battle” that played out over the last several months as some people named in the report appealed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to block its release.

“They wanted to cover up the cover-up,” he said.

Mr. Shapiro said his office would continue to fight for a full version of the report to be released with no redactions.

One example of a cover-up detailed in the report concerns the Rev. Ernest Paone, a priest who was caught molesting boys and using guns with young children in Pittsburgh. A fellow pastor intervened in 1962 to stop the police from arresting him. The district attorney at the time, Robert Masters, wrote to the diocese in 1964 to say that he had halted his investigation of the case “in order to prevent unfavorable publicity” for the diocese.

In testimony before the grand jury, Mr. Masters said that he had wanted the church’s support for his political career.

Father Paone was relocated successively to Los Angeles, San Diego and Reno in the following years, with Pittsburgh’s bishops attesting to his fitness as a priest. Among those bishops was Cardinal Wuerl, now the archbishop of Washington. He accepted Father Paone’s resignation from ministry in good standing in 2003, allowing him to collect his pension.

As of Tuesday, all six of the dioceses covered by the report had released the names of priests with allegations against them.

Bishop Gainer in Harrisburg recently ordered that the names of accused priests and of bishops who mishandled abuse cases be taken down from all church buildings in the diocese.

The report says that one of the victims who had testified before the grand jury tried to commit suicide while they were deliberating.

“From her hospital bed, she asked for one thing,” the grand jury wrote in the report, “that we finish our work and tell the world what really happened.”


An earlier version of this article misspelled the surname of a priest in the Erie diocese who was arrested in May. He is the Rev. David Poulson, not Poulsson.