Abuse in Philadelphia

Why the District Attorney Couldn't Indict

For a while, it seemed as if the Philadelphia Archdiocese had escaped relatively unscathed from the sexual-abuse scandals that devastated the Boston Archdiocese and many others. To be sure, there had been private lawsuits, and the Philadelphia Inquirer provided maximum coverage to the survivors who came forward, but few suits were successful. Local Catholics were encouraged that the Philadelphia district attorney and grand jury, which had been investigating archdiocesan sexual-abuse allegations since 2002, had produced no criminal indictments. So Philadelphia Catholics had reason to believe the archdiocese’s claims that just a few priests had been accused, and that those cases had been handled sensitively, promptly, and responsibly.

Those hopes were dashed, to say the least, by the release of the grand jury’s report on September 15. The massive document details accusations against 169 Philadelphia priests since 1967, and claims full substantiation of allegations against 63 of the priests by witness testimony and archdiocesan documents. Largely a collection of case studies, the report examines what priests allegedly did to the children entrusted to their care. The abuse cut across generations, class and ethnic distinctions, city and suburb. The narrative contains examples of abuse that have become painfully...

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