GRAND JURY REPORT
Clergy sexual abuse in 6 Catholic Dioceses in Pennsylvania, as documented in the August 2018 Grand Jury Report (1) (called “the Report” below), peaked strongly about 1980, after a gradually accelerating rate starting in the early 1940s. The number of credible abuses went from a few per year in the 1940s to about 15 per year in the 1960s, to close to 30 in the 1970s and peaked at 58 in 1980.
The Report documents the vilest cases of sexual abuse with children, mostly boys, mostly between the ages of 10 and 15. The abuse was made worse by the abuse of priestly trust, using their social authority to demand secrecy or enhance guilt in the victims. Also, church officials and civil authorities were slow to respond to the allegations and covered some of them up in various ways.
The Report contains detailed information, organized by victim/abuser incident but without identification of the victim. For many of the victims, the Report gives their birth year, sex, the calendar year of the first known abuse incident, and the identification of the abuser.
The Report gives much more information, when known, about the abusers: birth year, ordination year, death year, full names, diocese, their role in the victim’s life, the number of victims, types of abuse, aggravating factors of the abuse, locations of the abuse incidents and any legal consequences.
Previous Grand Jury reports about Philadelphia and Altoona-Johnstown did not contain such detail, so the August 2018 Report is an opportunity to study many previously unavailable details about the abusers and the timing of their abuses over their careers.
The Report does not analyze the data but focuses on egregious abuses and institutional responses to them over the years. In this paper, I want to explore the data that the Report provided, many aspects of which are not apparent in the narrative of the Report itself. If there are lessons to be learned from this information, it seems important to uncover them and try to understand as much as possible about the patterns of the abuses, and about the effectiveness of the policy changes and educational efforts made in the 1990s and later.