At first, there was silence.
Then came the terse “no comment” from the Vatican after a grand jury report the other day alleged that 1,000 or more children suffered sexual abuse at the hands of some 300 Pennsylvania predator priests over the past 70 years.
Now comes a statement from the Vatican on Thursday — from spokesman Greg Burke, specifically — that says the Holy See is taking the report “with great seriousness.”
Burke mentioned the “need to comply” with civil law — including the reporting of any abuse against minors, as required by law, and said Pope Francis, the leader of the world’s Catholics, understands how “these crimes can shake the faith and spirit of believers.”
He also said the pope desires to “root out this tragic horror” and that “victims should know that the pope is on their side … Those who have suffered are his priority.”
The accounts of abuse against children were detailed in a redacted, 1,356-page report from a Pennsylvania grand jury on Tuesday of this week, in which the alleged abusers were identified.
That report discussed what may be the largest-ever investigation of sex abuse in the Catholic Church in the U.S. — and found that some 300 priests in Pennsylvania had sexually abused minors over a period of 70 years.
The report also shares graphic examples of children being sexually abused by priests. Some children suffered the abuse beginning at the ages of seven and eight, as the report notes. Many priests had multiple allegations against them.
The Vatican, in its statement, expressed “shame and sorrow” over the events.
“The Church must learn hard lessons from its past, and there should be accountability for both abusers and those who permitted abuse to occur,” Burke also said in the statement.
“Among other explosive findings,” as Breitbart noted in a piece about the developments, “the report [from the grand jury on Tuesday] faulted Cardinal Donald Wuerl, a former longtime bishop of Pittsburgh who now leads the Washington archdiocese, for what it said was his role in the concealment of clergy sexual abuse. Wuerl, one of the highest-profile cardinals in the United States, released a statement Tuesday that said he had ‘acted with diligence, with concern for the victims and to prevent future acts of abuse.'”
Cardinal Wuerl “presided over 32 accused priests during his 18 years at the Pittsburgh diocese,” CBS News noted. The grand jury report said that in 1991, Wuerl reassigned an accused priest, Ernest Paone, to the Reno diocese.
And in 1995, he returned George Zirwas, a member of a pedophile community, according to the attorney general’s office, to the ministry, CBS also noted.
Also of note: “It’s possible that the ‘real number’ of abused children could be ‘in the thousands’ due to missing records or other victims who feared speaking about the allegations, according to the grand jury’s report,” as Fox News noted about this very, very troubling case.
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