The Vatican on Aug. 16 broke its silence and responded for the first time on the Pennsylvania grand jury report that detailed widespread and decades-long sexual abuse by clergy, as well as the systemic coverup efforts of church officials.
The response from the Roman Catholic Church came two days after the report was publicly released on Aug. 14. Pope Francis had faced mounting criticisms for his glaring silence.
“There are two words that can express the feelings faced with these horrible crimes: shame and sorrow,” Vatican spokesperson Greg Burke said in a statement.
“The abuses described in the report are criminal and morally reprehensible. Those acts were betrayals of trust that robbed survivors of their dignity and their faith. The Church must learn hard lessons from its past, and there should be accountability for both abusers and those who permitted abuse to occur.”
The 884-page report lists 301 “predator priests” who are credibly accused of sexually abusing more than 1,000 child victims, the majority of whom were boys. Due to continuing legal battles, more than a dozen names and related information remain redacted.
Chuch administrators were also accused of routinely covering up the claims of abuse by dissuading victims from reporting it, pressuring law enforcement to terminate investigations, or conducting their own biased investigations.
Burke said the Holy See “condemns unequivocally the sexual abuse of minors” and treats with “great seriousness” the work of the investigative report, which was led by Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro. The statement also reiterated the call to create a safe environment for minors in the Church.
Shapiro stressed that the investigation into clergy abuse is still continuing. But many of the identified priests will not face the criminal justice system as most are deceased and for those still alive, the alleged crimes are too old to be prosecuted. The findings cover abuse by the clergy dating back as far as 70 years in six of eight Pennsylvania dioceses.