A spokeswoman for the Diocese of Pittsburgh made a report on Wednesday, November 27th, 2019, stating that the child sexual abuse allegations made against four priests in the diocese have enough credit to be sent to the Vatican.
Three Pittsburgh Priests Removed From The Ministry Pending Investigations
Rev. John Bauer, retired Rev. Bernard Costello, Rev. Joseph Reschick, and Rev. Richard Lelonis have all been accused of sexual abuse involving children. Baur and Costello were placed on leave in August 2018, Reschick was placed on leave in October 2018, and Lelonis was placed on leave in November 2018.
Lelonis passed away this past October 2019.
The details regarding the alleged abuse have not been released, other than dates, which indicate the abuse began as far back as the 1960s. The Diocese of Pittsburgh has a review board that investigates any allegations and in her statement, the spokeswoman for the Diocese stated that “based on the evidence brought forward, the accusations are credible.”
The spokeswoman also indicated that any allegations of abuse are reported to the Attorney General’s Office. The investigation performed by the Diocese is completely separate from any criminal charges and only determines if a priest should be permanently removed from the ministry.
Victims Continue To Come Forward After Grand Jury Report
In July 2018, a grand jury report was released, publishing the results of a two-year investigation into widespread allegations of child sexual abuse in six Diocese of the Catholic Church in Pennsylvania. The report highlighted just how far church officials went to cover up the ongoing sexual assault.
Here are just a few of the facts outlined in the report:
- More than 1,000 child victims were identified – using the church’s own records. The grand jury report indicated that the actual number of victims is likely in the thousands.
- The majority of the victims were boys, however, girls were also sexually assaulted.
- The church maintains a “secret archive” (the term secret archive is the term the church used, not the grand jury) regarding child sexual assault. Only the bishop is allowed to have a key to this archive.
- The church regularly moved priests from one parish to another when allegations of sexual assault became known in the community, instead of removing them from the ministry.
- Church officials who “investigated” child sex abuse allegations were not to use terms like “rape”. Instead, they were instructed to downplay the seriousness of the situation by using phrases like “boundary issues”.
The full grand jury report is nearly 900 pages long and can be found here.
Following the release of this report, thousands of victims who were abused by Catholic priests as children have come forward, speaking out against their abusers.
Why Didn’t The Victims Abused By Catholic Priests Come Forward Sooner?
In many cases, the victims of child sex abuse committed by Catholic priests did come forward, only to be told they were in the wrong or to be ignored. Many survivors have stated that when they told church officials about the horrific abuse they had suffered, they were told to pray for their sins, while their abuser was left unpunished.
Choosing to come forward and report sexual abuse is incredibly difficult for any adult survivor, let alone a child. In fact, sexual assault and rape are the most underreported crimes in the United States. Reasons why survivors don’t come forward include:
- Fear: Abusers regularly threaten their victims and the victim’s loved ones, saying harm will come to them if the victim reports the abuse.
- Embarrassment: Shame and embarrassment are two emotions that frequently stop a survivor from reporting.
- Belief That Nothing Will Stop: Sadly, many survivors believe that the police and other officials won’t help them stop the abuse.
- Love: The majority of victims know their abuser. While they may not love their abuser, this person is often linked to someone the victim does love. In order to avoid upsetting loved ones, victims remain silent.
It’s common for those who commit sex abuse crimes to have multiple victims. When one victim comes forward, this usually inspires another to do the same.
Survivors Of Sexual Assault Can Take Legal Action And Remain Anonymous
Survivors of sexual assault have the right to take legal action against the person who abused them and any parties whose negligence allowed the abuse to take place. A sexual assault lawsuit can provide compensation that won’t change the past but could help to build a brighter and happier future.
This legal complaint can be filed anonymously. To learn more about how this can be done and the legal process, contact Abuse Guardians for a free consultation.