WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A last-minute round of legal maneuvering
to keep some names from appearing in a grand jury report detailing a months-long investigation
of clergy sex abuse claims in six Pennsylvania dioceses may have kept the document
from being made public Aug. 8 -- the earliest date given for its possible
On Aug. 8, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette newspaper reported
that confidential sources said "more than one" person filed a challenge under
court seal. Some of those named in the report had been given until Aug. 7 to
file a challenge, objecting to their inclusion in the report because they have
not had the legal opportunity to defend themselves. They are scheduled to have
a hearing with the court in September.
Pennsylvania has until Aug. 14 to release the report, which is
said to detail some seven decades of claims of sexual abuse of children by Catholic
clergy and a reported cover-up by officials in the dioceses of Harrisburg,
Allentown, Scranton, Pittsburgh, Greensburg and Erie, according to the
Pennsylvania's Office of the Attorney General.
In July, the state's Supreme Court said
the grand jury investigation led by Pennsylvania's Attorney General Josh
Shapiro had identified over 300 "predator priests."
Those who object to being named may have their names redacted,
or blacked out, when the document is made public. A grand jury does not
determine guilt or innocence, but whether there may be enough evidence or
probable cause to support a criminal charge.
Though the report was not released Aug. 8, The Associated
Press reported Aug. 3 that a court filing made public that same day showed an
excerpt of what's to come.
The AP quoted the excerpt of the report as saying: "The main
thing was not to help children, but to avoid 'scandal," speaking of church
leaders and other officials in the dioceses. The report also says victims were "brushed
aside," with concern being placed on the protecting of the alleged abusers and the institution
of the church, the AP news story said.
Some of the dioceses involved have released the names of those
who have been accused of sexual abuse in their localities. One of them, the Diocese of Harrisburg,
updated its public list Aug. 6, adding the name of an accused priest to it after
receiving "additional information" since the first time it made the information
public Aug. 1.
"We again emphasize that this is a list of accusations; we
did not make assessments of credibility or guilt in creating this list," a
statement from the diocese said.
Others, such as the Diocese of Scranton, have said they will
make public a list of those who have been "credibly accused" after the release
of the grand jury report.
Not all who are accused of sexual abuse or of covering it up in
the report are priests. Some on the lists released by dioceses are deacons,
some are seminarians, teachers or other church workers, and some are no longer
alive. Some are accused of being in possession of child pornography, others of
inappropriate touching, kissing, soliciting a child for sex, but most are
listed as "sexually abusing a child."
The development comes as the Catholic Church in the United
States finds itself grappling with the late July resignation from the College of Cardinals a beloved and
respected retired prelate, now-Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick, 88, of
Washington, following decades-old allegations that he sexually abused
seminarians and at least two minors. He has
been removed from public ministry, as of June 20, and is awaiting a Vatican trial.