NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A bombshell report has been released about child abuse by Roman Catholic priests in Pennsylvania.
The report found that 300 “predator priests” abused more than 1,000 children over a period of 70 years, and that senior church officials covered it up, CBS2’s Nikki Battiste reported Tuesday.
Survivors wept as Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro publicly revealed the contents of the landmark grand jury report for the first time.
“It means the world to me to be able to do this for them, to help them have some modicum of healing,” Shapiro said.
Victims and their loved ones had been anticipating the release of the report, which is the most sweeping examination yet of child sex abuse in the U.S. Catholic Church.
“We’ve stood up and said our truth,” Jim Vansickle said.
“Secret’s out now,” Mary McHale added.
Investigators uncovered disturbing allegations, including a 7-year-old girl raped in a hospital after she had her tonsils taken out; a 9-year-old boy whose mouth was rinsed with holy water after being forced to perform oral sex; and five sisters abused by the same priest, who also collected samples of their bodily fluids.
“She was 18 months old when she was abused for the first time — 18 months old. She was in a diaper,” Shapiro said when asked how old the youngest victim was.
In all, 301 offenders were named in the report. About a third, 99, came from the Pittsburgh diocese.
The former bishop there, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, spoke to CBS2’s Battiste before the report was released.
“I think the report is going to show that during my tenure we acted very appropriately, with many times removal from ministry, totally and completely,” Wuerl said.
When asked if he ever moved priests quietly elsewhere, Wuerl said, “That wasn’t … that wasn’t our process.”
Battiste responded saying she did speak with a victim who said his priest, that he alleges abuses him, was moved.
“I can’t speak to any particular case,” Wuerl said.
But according to the grand jury, in 1991 Wuerl reassigned an accused priest, Ernest Paone, to the Reno diocese. In 1995, he returned George Zirwas, who the report says was a member of a pedophile ring, to ministry. Wuerl even presided over Zirwas’ funeral. Wuerl also approved monthly “sustenance payments” of up to $1,000 to Richard Zula, who was also a member of the pedophile ring, after Zula’s release from prison.
“It’s frankly shocking that the priests and the bishops and the monsignors and the cardinals knew about all of this, and weren’t shocked and sought to cover it up,” Shapiro said.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement Wednesday morning in response to the report, saying, in part, that they are shamed and sorry for the sins and omissions by Catholic priests and Catholic bishops.