PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – In the wake of the sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia, new attention is now being paid to a little known report produced by a third grand jury. Previously, most focus in the case has been on reports produced by two other grand juries.
But a group of victims Tuesday singled out this third report as evidence of the extent of a cover up by the Archdiocese.
“We were shocked to know that there’s a third grand jury,” said Barbara Blaine, president of the Survivors’ Network of those Abused by Priests or SNAP. “It’s another set of individual citizens of Philadelphia who were given information and came to the same conclusions… The bottom line is church officials were more concerned with keeping their image clear than protecting children.”
At 18 pages, the report is fairly brief, and it is not new. It actually dates back to 2003 and was written by the first grand jury to investigate sex abuse in the Philadelphia archdiocese.
At the time, judging by the public statements of Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, members expected to find just a “small number of isolated incidents” of sexual abuse. Instead, they were overwhelmed with 120 cases. The investigation became so large the grand jury – which is legally only able to sit for two years in Philadelphia – was forced to turn over its information to a second grand jury. That grand jury then produced a much lengthier document in 2005.
While that second grand jury worked, the first grand jury’s report was sealed. It did become a matter of public record in 2005 along with the second panel’s report but was largely overshadowed.
“We asked the judge, the court, to embargo this report until we finished our investigation,” said Lynne Abraham, the district attorney at the time. “We didn’t want things to leak out so that people would manufacture things.”
The first grand jury found Cardinal Bevilacqua’s claims “that he never knowingly transferred a priest who had been credibly accused of sexually abusing a minor” was “unworthy of belief.” He has not been charged.
Monsignor William Lynn, who oversaw clergy under Bevilacqua, was also accused in the report of helping to conceal the alleged crimes and transferring priests known to be abusive.
The archdiocese had no comment Tuesday except to point out that the report is not new.
Reported by Ben Simmoneau, CBS 3