PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — One year ago, with victims of child abuse by priests standing behind him, Attorney General Josh Shapiro revealed a grand jury report that stunned the nation.
“All of the victims were brushed aside in every part of the state by church leaders, who preferred to protect the abusers and their institutions above all,” Shapiro said on Aug. 14, 2018.
“Priests were raping little boys and girls, and the men of God who were responsible for them not only did nothing, they hid it all for decades,” Shapiro added.
A year later, Shapiro has mixed emotions on what has happened since.
“I guess my emotions can be summed up in two words: inspired and disappointed,” Shapiro told KDKA political editor Jon Delano in an exclusive sit-down interview. “I am inspired by the survivors who shared their truth that led to the grand jury report, and the survivors who have shared their truth since that has led 20 state attorneys general opening an investigation, the feds launching a probe.”
Shapiro credits the survivors with keeping the heat on both the church and state Senators, who have failed to pass grand jury recommendations approved by Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives.
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“I’m disappointed that while other states have adopted the grand jury reforms — neighboring states like New York and New Jersey — our state Senate leadership has failed to even bring it up for a vote,” Shapiro said.
The grand jury urged four changes to state law: eliminate criminal statute of limitations on child sex abuse; clarify who must report and when abuse must be reported; prohibit church confidentiality agreements with survivors from preventing disclosures to law enforcement; and give survivors a two-year window to sue their abusers in civil court.
“The will of these survivors will carry the day,” Shapiro said. “And those handful of Republican senators who continue to listen to the lobbyists of the Catholic church and the lobbyists for the Insurance Federation — ultimately the voices of those lobbyists will be drowned out by the voices of the survivors and the will of the people of Pennsylvania. And I believe it will get done here.”
KDKA reached out to Senator Joe Scarnati, the Republican leader in Harrisburg, who responded with this statement:
“When the legislature returns to session this fall, I am committed to working with my colleagues to address the three House bills currently in the Senate pertaining to child sexual abuse. However, as part of this discussion, it is also crucial to note that over the past year the victims’ compensation funds set up by the dioceses in Pennsylvania have been working to give victims the financial support they deserve. While recognizing that the fund process is ongoing, to date tens of millions of dollars have been paid out to many victims all across the Commonwealth. Financial assistance cannot change the past, but will aid victims as they attempt to move forward.”
Shapiro also continues to criticize the Catholic dioceses for not doing enough.
One year ago, he set up a Clergy Abuse Hotline which, as of today has received about 1900 calls of which 90 percent involve a Catholic priest.
If you know of abuse you wish to report, call 888-538-8541.
Now Catholic Bishop David Zubik also issued a statement:
“This year has been a time of sorrow for the harm done to people at the hands of clergy who were expected to be trusted spiritual leaders. It has also been a time for the heart of the church to deepen its understanding of what victims/survivors have endured, and to reach out in new ways to help them heal.”