A Philadelphia grand jury yesterday charged that the Philadelphia Archdiocese and its former top leaders allowed hundreds of sexual assaults against children to go unpunished and protected the priests who committed the crimes, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. In searing language, the panel accused former church officials – including Cardinals Anthony J. Bevilacqua and John Krol – of “burying” abuse reports, ignoring warnings about abusive priests, and shuttling offenders from parish to parish, where some found new victims. “Sexually abusive priests were left quietly in place or ‘recycled’ to unsuspecting new parishes – vastly expanding the number of children who were abused,” the grand jury said.
The hierarchy “excused and enabled the abuse” for decades, the grand jury said in a 418-page report, demonstrating “utter indifference to the suffering of the victims.” The panel recommended no criminal charges, saying church leaders kept silent about the abuses until it was too late for prosecutors to make a case. “Regrettably, the perpetrators of these crimes and the people who protected them will never face the criminal penalties that they deserve,” District Attorney Lynne Abraham said. The archdiocese denounced the grand jury report as “incredibly biased and anti-Catholic.” Cardinal Justin Rigali defended his predecessors as having sought “to do what was thought to be the most effective thing at the time.” Abraham said the response gave her no confidence that the church’s responses to abuse complaints “will be better in the future.”