Attorney General Shapiro Urges Pope Francis to Help End Attempts to Silence Victims of Sexual Abuse

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Pope Francis delivers the Urbi et Orbi (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

Attorney General Josh Shapiro implored Pope Francis to help stop the attempts to silence victims of sexual abuse in six Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania.

Yesterday, Shapiro sent a letter to Pope Francis regarding his office’s investigation into the widespread sexual abuse and systemic coverup by Catholic Church leaders in Pennsylvania.

In his letter, the attorney general noted that Pope Francis visited St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania in 2015. There he met a group of sexual abuse survivors  and apologized to them because the Church did not listen and believe them for so long.

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Additionally, Shapiro stressed that at the time, Pope Francis told sexual abuse survivors that he “hears and believes” them. He promised “to follow the path of truth wherever it may lead.” He also vowed to hold clergy and bishops accountable when they abuse or fail to protect children. 

Some Catholic Church leaders opposed the release of grand jury report

Furthermore, the attorney general expressed to the Pope that he admires his “commitment to fighting the defenseless.” However, he was disappointed by the actions of some clergy leading the Catholic Church in Pennsylvania.

“Sadly, some of the clergy leading the church in Pennsylvania have failed to heed your words,” wrote Shapiro. He went on to say that at least two church leaders in the state are behind the efforts to silence the victims of sexual abuse and avoid accountability.

Shapiro requested Pope Francis to instruct church leaders in the state to “abandon their destructive efforts to silence survivors.”

“Please call on them to follow the path of truth you laid out and permit the healing process to begin” wrote Shapiro to Pope Francis.

Last month, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court prevented the release of of the grand jury report on sexual abuse within the six Catholic dioceses in the state. Over a dozen current and retired members of the Catholic clergy filed objections to the court. They argued that the report violated their constitutional rights because it was full of errors and mischaracterizations. Shapiro filed an objection to a continued stay of the report’s release.

On July 20, Supervising Judge Norman A. Krumenacker of the 40th Statewide Investigating Grand Jury, overruled the objections to the release of the report.

In his ruling, Krumenacker emphasized that the report did not violate grand jury secrecy. He allowed the release of the “redacted brief” to the public “at the discretion of the Supreme Court.”