A recent Pennsylvania grand jury report on sexual abuse in the Catholic Church identified mostly boy victims, but some of those allegedly abused were girls, as well. Some of those girls, as a result of the alleged abuse, became pregnant. At least one went through an abortion arranged by her abusive priest. Yet, the priest would not be removed until over 15 years later.
Grand Jury Report Highlights Abuse of Young Girls
The report notes several cases of abuse to young girls, and in each one, instead of removing the alleged abusers from the ministry, the church allegedly allowed them to continue in some fashion. Below are some examples.
- In the Dioceses of Greensburg, a priest allegedly got a 17-year-old girl pregnant and married her when she turned 18 (with a forged signature on the marriage certificate). Though the marriage was legal, the priest was sent for treatment and repentance at the Foundation House in New Mexico. After that, he divorced the woman and was allowed to stay in the ministry in a different state. The woman went on to give birth to the child.
- In the Dioceses of Harrisburg, a priest abused five sisters in one family, and also collected samples of their urine, pubic hair, and menstrual blood. When his collection was found, the church still failed to act.
- In the Diocese of Scranton, a priest assaulted a minor female, got her pregnant, and helped her obtain an abortion. When his bishop became aware of the incident, he sent the priest to St. Luke’s Institute for psychiatric treatment. A few months later, the priest was again ministering in another location. The priest was not removed for another over 15 years.
- In the Diocese of Scranton, a priest had a relationship with a high school girl. The girl became pregnant, and the priest was removed from that location, but his bishop later “wholeheartedly approved” of him continuing in the priesthood in Venice. The girl gave birth to a boy, and when the child turned seven, she asked the Diocese of Scranton to cover the cost of his tuition so he could attend St. Agnes School in Towanda. She was notified that a scholarship would be arranged for the boy.
Statute of Limitations Keeps Victims from Finding Justice
Pennsylvania law requires that all incidences of child abuse be reported to law enforcement officials, yet the church avoided that step over and over again. When speaking of all the child victims, the grand jury noted, “But all of them were brushed aside, in every part of the state, by church leaders who preferred to protect the abusers and their institution over all.”
Unfortunately, most of the incidences are now too old to be prosecuted under the current statute of limitations. In Pennsylvania, victims can bring criminal charges until they turn 50, and civil charges until they turn 30. Because of this, just two of the predator priests identified in the grand jury report have been charged with crimes.
Pennsylvania State Representative Mark Rozzi proposed a two-year window for victims of past abuse, during which they can file claims. The Pennsylvania House of Representatives recently approved the window, and now it is up to the Senate. The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference has stated it will oppose such action.
Exclusively focused on representing plaintiffs, especially in mass tort litigation, Eric Chaffin prides himself on providing unsurpassed professional legal services in pursuit of the specific goals of his clients and their families. Both his work and his cases have been featured in the national press, including on ABC’s Good Morning America.