Nearly one month after the Pennsylvania Attorney General released the results of a scathing grand jury investigation into alleged widespread sexual abuse at the hands of Roman Catholic priests, a legal battle continues over its findings and a group of clergy members are challenging the final report.
In the latest court documents, about a dozen clergy members, whose names have been withheld from the grand jury report, claim that their due process rights have been violated and criticize the conduct of Attorney General Josh Shapiro.
The report is the culmination of a two-year grand jury investigation that identifies more than 300 “predator priests” who allegedly abused, molested and raped more than 1,000 children over seven decades in six of the state’s eight dioceses.
Since the report’s release, more than 400 additional calls have been made to the AG’s clergy abuse hotline, and attorneys general in at least six other states including New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Missouri, Nebraska and New Mexico have said they would initiate their own investigations into sexual abuse by priests.
The anonymous clergy members argue that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court should accept the redacted report as the grand jury’s final draft.
The group cites Shapiro’s own words at a press conference last month as “poisoning the well” and threatening their reputations.
“These petitioners, and for a time, some of the Dioceses, sought to prevent the entire report from ever seeing the light of day. In effect, they wanted to cover up the cover-up,” said Shapiro at the August 14 press conference. “Shamefully, these petitioners still don’t have the courage to tell the public who they are.”
The clergy claim that the statements from Shapiro present a “false choice” between giving voice to victims’ or giving due process to clergy members.
They write, “The Attorney General’s misconduct itself rises to the level of a violation of due process, creating a fixed bias and hostility toward the Petitioners, ensuring that no future grand juror could impartially evaluate Petitioners’ evidence in a new proceeding.”
In addition to their complaints about due process, the clergy members point out inconsistencies in the report, such as dates and ages that could reveal some inaccurate findings.
Shapiro would not comment directly on the clergy’s latest arguments, but spokesperson Joe Grace sent the following written statement:
“The people of Pennsylvania have the right to read every page of the grand jury report, and every redaction represents an incomplete story of abuse that deserves to be told. We will fight vigorously to remove every redaction and tell every story of abuse and expose every cover up.”
He stated that the Office of the Attorney General has worked diligently to abide by both the secrecy requirements of the grand jury and court orders.
Oral arguments over the release of the full report are scheduled before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Sept. 26. at 9:30 a.m. in Philadelphia.