Pa.'s Attorney General Calls for No Statute of Limitations in Wake of Clergy Abuse Report

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro pushes for legal change after clergy abuse report

What to Know

  • A report into child sex abuse in 6 Pennsylvania Catholic dioceses says thousands of young victims were abused over many decades.
  • A grand jury worked for two years to investigate more than 300 alleged predator priests. Some clergy opposed the release of the report.
  • In the wake of the report, some Pennsylvania lawmakers are being called on to change the statue of limitations on sex abuse cases.

After the release of a grand jury report detailing some of the alleged sexual abuse of children by members of Pennsylvania’s Catholic clergy, state Attorney General Josh Shapiro joined advocates for victims of clergy abuse and other elected officials to call change for an end to the statute of limitations for child sex abuse.

"I want to be clear, we unearthed an organized criminal enterprise here in Pennsylvania, for now, they got away with some of it," Shapiro said while calling for action now.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro wants Pennsylvania lawmakers to eliminate the statute of limitations on child sex abuse cases. Friday's call to action comes in the wake of the Catholic Church sex abuse grand jury report.

Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele and Bucks County District Attorney Matthew Weintraub joined Shapiro and victim advocates to encourage the state legislature to pass reforms to the period of time allowed to pursue sexual abuse cases. 

"I stand with these survivors," Shapiro said. 

Eliminating the restrictions on how far back allegations can go is "fair," "right" and "just," Shapiro said.

He wants the legislature to lift the statute of limitations so that civil cases can be pursued in court in decades-old clergy abuse cases.

The Pennsylvania House has voted to give child sex abuse victims, in cases now too old to pursue, two years to file lawsuits. But Senate Republican leaders are balking.

Shapiro, a Democrat, says he doesn't know how any lawmaker who read the grand jury report could vote against changing the law.

Friday's event follows a roundtable last month and a lawsuit by parents of children in the Roman Catholic Church and survivors of alleged sexual abuse by clergy  that targets all eight of Pennsylvania dioceses and their bishops to compel them to release information about allegations in an unrelated action.

The damning, years-long grand jury report released by Shapiro in August implicates hundreds of Catholic clergy members in six of Pennsylvania’s dioceses of sexually abusing thousands of young victims over many decades.

"The Church, you have to understand, used a sophisticated, coordinated, systematic approach to covering up this abuse," Shapiro said. "With a stated purpose, often times, of shielding these predators from the arm of law enforcement, of moving them to some other place for a long enough period of time that law enforcement wouldn't know about it and wouldn't be bale to bring a case."

"They took advantage of those laws in order to protect these predators," Shapiro said.

Lurid details released throughout more than 1,300 pages include rape, abortions, confessions and cover-ups. It took the grand jury more than two years to fully investigate the abuse allegations against more than 300 priests contained in the sometimes explicit report.

After a protracted legal fight over the release of a comprehensive grand jury report, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro detailed sexual abuse allegations against 301 Catholic priests in Pennsylvania. Calling the men “predators,” Shapiro said the grand jury believes there may be thousands of victims. WARNING: This video includes content that some may find disturbing. Viewer discretion advised.

The grand jury investigated dioceses in Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh and Scranton, which together minister to more than 1.7 million Catholics. About 25 percent of people throughout the state identify as Catholic, according to the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference.

The scathing grand jury report marks the most sweeping look into sexual abuse within the Catholic Church in the United States, Shapiro said at the time of the report's release.

NBC10 and Telemundo 62 were among the news organizations that joined a court case pressing for the report's release. Read it here (warning: explicit and disturbing content).

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