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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Barring any last-minute objections, the long-awaited grand jury report on sexual abuse in six Pennsylvania diocese will finally be released on Wednesday.
The report will shine a light into the dark corners of six Pennsylvania diocese going back seven decades.
While most of the cases are old and the clergy accused are either retired or deceased, just two weeks ago, Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced that Father Tomas Sweeney of the Greensburg Diocese had pleaded guilty to indecent assault.
“There can be no doubt that father Sweeney is a predator priest,” Shapiro said.
For the past month, Shapiro has been fighting to release the 800-page report over the objections of some of those named. But according to one court filing, more than 90 clergy and lay teachers will be cited in the Diocese of Pittsburgh alone, including several who were eventually convicted.
Some of those convicted are Father Robert Wolk of St. Thomas More in Bethel Park; Father Richard Zula of Saint Mary and Ann in Marianna, Washington County; and father Richard Dorsch, convicted of sexually assaulting a 13-year-old boy in North Park.
The grand jury report will cite these cases and others as part of a pattern of the diocese having prior knowledge of the actions of these priests, reassigning them and not alerting law enforcement.
“I’m concerned about our people that they may be scandalized and tempted to turn their backs on god,” Bishop David Zubik said.
In a letter read at Sunday mass, Bishop Zubik warned the congregations that the report would be scathing – but he said 90 percent of the cases involved incidents that occurred before 1990 and that the church has instituted safeguards and reforms to identify and weed out the abusers.
“I really felt it was important to get people ready for the report because it’s going to be tough and at the same time to realize the decisions that the Diocese of Pittsburgh makes today are far different today than what would have been made in the last 10, 20 years.”
Until now, the Pittsburgh Diocese had been considered a leader in those reforms. Now Cardinal – then Bishop Donald Wuerl – defied the Vatican back in 1993 by refusing to reassign pedophile priest Anothy Cipolla. But sources familiar with the report say when it is released, Wuerl’s record in Pittsburgh will also come under fire.
But it’s no longer a question of if the report will be released only when. If it isn’t released Wednesday, the Pa. Supreme Court has ruled it can be released no later than nest Tuesday.
Among the more than 300 priests and lay teachers named, one will be Father Jack Hoehl – the former headmaster at Quigley High School.
More than 15 years ago, Hoehl was exposed. On Tuesday, one of Hoehl’s victims, Paul Dorsch, spoke about being one of the first to come forward.
“It’s a long journey,” he said.
Nearly two decades ago, Dorsch and a group of former classmates at Quigley High School revealed a deep and painful secret — that they had been molested years before by their former headmaster and wrestling coach — Father Jack Hoehl — and that their lives had taken dark turns as a result.
“Trust issues, alcohol and drug abuse, they are all evident in 99 percent of us,” Dorsch said.
After high school, Dorsch would spiral into depression and lose his first marriage.
After credible allegations against Hoehl years ago, the Pittsburgh Diocese sent him to a rehab and then reassigned to chaplain work at Shadyside Hospital. Law enforcement was never notified. The diocese eventually did remove Hoehl from ministry, but he was later found working as a youth counselor in Weirton, West Virginia. After a KDKA report, West Virginia revoked his license.
“You still look up Jack Hoehl on a criminal background check and nothing’s going to come up on him,” Dorsch said. “He’s an 80-year-old man now, but 20 years ago he could do the same thing.”
When the grand jury report is released, sources tell KDKA that Hoehl will be named as part of a pattern in Pittsburgh and five other Pennsylvania diocese of reassigning priests and notifying police. And while bishops say two decades of reforms and safeguards make this is no longer the case, Dorsch has high praise for Shapiro for shining a light into the past practices.
“It’s going to be huge,” Dorsch said. :”So many people are going to get a sense of caring — that somebody actually cares. Somebody actually went to that length, and it’s not just me.”
Other sexual abuse survivors say the release of the report will go a long way in their own recoveries. An acknowledgement that the damage done has been great, and that they are not alone.