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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Bishop David Zubik, the leader of the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh, is responding to a state grand jury report into sexual abuse in six Pennsylvania dioceses.

The 884-page document, two years in the making, shines a light into the dark corners of these dioceses going back seven decades, exposing the predators and the efforts of their bishops to protect them.

“Today, the most comprehensive report on child sexual abuse within the church ever produced in our country was released,” state Attorney General Josh Shapiro said.

The report cites 301 priests, clergy and lay teachers with credible allegations against them. There are 99 in the Diocese of Pittsburgh alone.

“The women and men of the grand jury have spoken, they have spoken for victims, and for those women and men for whom they have spoken, we hear you, the church hears you, I hear you,” said Bishop Zubik. “First, let me say that in the name of the church of Pittsburgh, and in my own name, and in the name of my predecessors, we are sorry. I am sorry. We all must take this report to heart. It is a story of people’s lives, people who need to be heard, people who need to be healed, it is a cause to which we must remain committed long after this story has faded from the headlines.”

WATCH BISHOP ZUBIK’S FULL NEWS CONFERENCE HERE:


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Of those 99, a group of four groomed and violently sexually assaulted young boys, said Shapiro.

“One boy was forced to stand on a bed in a rectory, strip naked and pose as Christ on the cross for the priests. They took photos of their victim, adding them to a collection of child pornography which they produced and shared on church grounds,” Shapiro said.

Bishop Zubik addressed the report’s allegations that cover-ups were done in an attempt to run out the clock on the statute of limitations.

“There was no cover up going on,” Bishop Zubik said during a press conference. “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. Second of all, I think that we have to remember that Bishop Wuerl, when he was bishop of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, was as he has in the past been described, is in fact, accurate. He was passionate about child sexual abuse, from the very beginning of his becoming bishop of Pittsburgh. He faced what was the first public incidents of three priests being involved in sexual abuse of two brothers. That, in fact, fired him up to be able to look for ways in which the issue of child sexual abuse could be addressed.”

KDKA’s Jon Delano has Shapiro’s response:


But Bishop Zubik’s denials brought a strong response from Shapiro.

“If you look at the documents contained in the church’s own secret archives that then-Bishop Wuerl and Bishop Zubik had access to, uniquely had access to, it is clear that the cover-up occurred in the Pittsburgh Diocese along with every other diocese in Pennsylvania. The abuse occurred and it was enabled by this cover-up,” the attorney general said.

In a letter read at Sunday mass and something he again addressed during his Tuesday news conference, Bishop Zubik 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. He said no priest or deacon with a credible allegation against them is in active ministry today.

“It’s one thing to tell you what we’ve done, it’s another to show you. This graph highlights the sharp decline in reported incidents of child sexual abuse since the Diocese of Pittsburgh began to implement reforms in the 1980s,” said Bishop Zubik.

pittsburgh diocese grand jury report graph Bishop David Zubik On Grand Jury Report: There Was No Cover Up Going On

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

Some of those safeguards, he said, include, those entering seminaries being screened with physiological testing, the curriculum being overhauled to better prepare men for a healthy and celibate lifestyle, as well as the creation of an independent review board.

Shapiro said the priests would mark their victims by giving them gifts.

“To make it easier to target their victims, the priests gave their favored boys gifts – gold crosses to wear as necklaces. The crosses were markings of which boys had been groomed for abuse,” Shapiro said.

Meghan Schiller’s Report:

The report includes some priests who stood trial and were convicted of sexual assault. In the Diocese of Pittsburgh, they include: Father Robert Wolk of St. Thomas More in Bethel Park; Father Richard Zula of Saints Mary and Ann in Marianna, Washington County, and Father Richard Dorsch, convicted of sexually assaulting a 13-year-old boy in North Park.

Until now, the Pittsburgh Diocese had been considered a leader in those reforms since now Cardinal, then bishop, Donald Wuerl defied the Vatican back in 1993 by refusing to reassign pedophile priest Anthony Cipolla. Wuerl was a leader in formulating policies to protect children, but in the report, his record here also comes under fire.

KDKA’s Jon Delano Reports:


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Bishop Zubik addressed that during his news conference as well.

“The one thing I want to make a clarification on, that I was a little bit taken aback with the Attorney General’s press conference today, somehow he kind of was talking about people covering up and then he said, ‘Well, these people were promoted to become bishops.’ He named myself, he named Cardinal Wuerl, he named another bishop from another diocese, I just need to be able to say very clearly, and when they make reference to the fact that we’re named in the report, we’re named in the report because of work that we had done at that particular time, and that’s how we were named,” said Bishop Zubik. “The report certainly does not indicate that I did anything that was covering up. And I can say personally, that did not happen.”

He said in the 30 years that he’s been involved with the Pittsburgh Diocese, he’s seen on cover-ups.

“I can say that through my perspective, and you’re going back 70 years, I can’t speak for people back… but I would have to say that the 30 years that I’ve been associated on and off with the Diocese of Pittsburgh, that’s not, there would not be cover-ups,” Bishop Zubik said.

“It’s an outrageous and irresponsible argument put forth by the bishop,” Shapiro said. “Child rape is rape whether it occurred in the 1980s, 90s, or 2018. It is never acceptable, and it is never okay to cover it up as Bishop Zubik did, and as Cardinal Wuerl did.”

Bishop Zubik also said he’s cried with the victims and their families before, and he plans to dedicate himself to them and doing everything he can to keep incidents of child sexual abuse at the hands of priests from ever happening again.

“I promise to meet with any victim to apologize to them in person and in the name of the church. Today, I again apologize to any person or family whose trust, faith and well-being has been devastated by men who were ordained to be nothing less than the image of Jesus Christ,” he said.

The Catholic Diocese of Greensburg, which is also part of the grand jury report, is also responding to its release. Click here to read the full homily from Bishop Edward C. Malesic.

It reads, in part: “To the survivors of sexual abuse in the Church, whether it was at the hands of a priest, a teacher, volunteer, or even a family member: I grieve for you and I grieve with you. In the Diocese of Greensburg, we stand ready to listen to you and, if you want it, we stand ready to help you heal as much as possible. It does not matter when it occurred, by whom it occurred, where it occurred, or how it occurred. We want to help. Jesus expects nothing less from us. Let me tell you this, just in case you have some misgivings because of your past experience with the Church: We love you. And I ask all of the Catholic faithful to support you with the care and concern that you deserve.”