In August, a grand jury report was released in Pennsylvania detailing abuse at six of the eight dioceses in the state.
The report detailed over 300 priests who had abused more than 1,000 victims over 70 years, and the church's efforts to cover up the crimes. Several other instances of abuse, both within the U.S. and internationally, have also been making news. More states are conducting investigations similar to the Pennsylvania one that resulted in the report.
And now the U.S. Justice Department is conducting an investigation into the church in Pennsylvania. This is quite a development, as the federal government has avoided investigating these types of cases in the past.
Michael Dolce, a lawyer who represents victims of sexual abuse, told reporters, “This is just a breathtaking, stunning and very welcome development.”
Local prosecutors in Philadelphia were the ones to make the decision to launch the federal investigation. According to a source familiar with the matter it was not senior Justice Department officials in Washington who decided to initiate this probe.
Peter Isely is an advocate for victims of sexual abuse, and was abused himself as a child. Isely said groups have long been pressing the U.S. government for a national investigation of child sex abuse. Isely is also a spokesman for the group Ending Clergy Abuse. ECA is a "worldwide organization of human rights’ activists and survivors from over 17 countries and 5 continents who focus on children’s and victims’ rights to compel the Church to end clerical abuse, especially child sexual abuse."
“Imagine if they did what was done in Pennsylvania, but nationwide,” Isely said.
I imagine we would be simultaneously horrified, and unsurprised by the results. I mean, really... after reading through some of the details in the Pennsylvania report, I feel like we would know what to expect. In that sense it would be unsurprising, but the depth and pervasiveness of the horrible crimes committed against children. That is where the horror would come in. Understanding the gravity and widespread nature of the abuse is what would be truly staggering.
The only way to protect children in the future, though, is to confront that horror head on. These investigations must be conducted and the church, and the clergy, must be held accountable for all these crimes.