The photo of the dark clouds over the cross on the cover of this issue of OC Catholic are a reflection of the turbulent state of the Church in the wake of the release of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report on sexual abuse within six dioceses in that state. The report, released in August 2018, is hard to read. The crimes detailed are reprehensible. There is no defense whatsoever for the violations that occurred physically, emotionally and spiritually to innocent victims, and there is no excuse for the way in which some Church leaders responded to claims of abuse. The work of the grand jury has led to a dozen other states announcing their intention to conduct similar investigations.
The nearly 900-page report, prepared by the Pennsylvania Grand Jury – a group of citizens who worked for 18 months to determine the scope of the crimes committed, provided historical context on the issue and then made recommendations for action – was analyzed by veteran religion journalist Peter Steinfels. He writes in a 12,000-word piece that appeared first in Commonweal Magazine that in our media-crazed, rush-to-be-first society, the headlines that were immediately posted worldwide of the grand jury’s findings don’t tell the whole story.
Steinfels questions why there was no questioning of the grand jury report itself. It appears, he claims, that “to question the report’s conclusions is to affirm the very opposite.” He writes: “It is ironic that people raising perfectly legitimate questions about the accountability of bishops should overlook questions about the accountability of investigating grand juries.”
The editorial team at OC Catholic found his analysis compelling enough to share it with our readers. We are NOT in any way suggesting that the abuse did not occur. We are NOT in any way suggesting that the way some Church leaders dealt with claims of abuse was acceptable. We believe, as members of the Catholic Church, we should all be as informed as possible about the issue. That involves reading, asking questions and thoughtful consideration of the matter. We provide a starting point for that on the following pages.