Political News

Lawmaker: Abuse claims probed in 2 more Catholic dioceses

Posted September 16

— A state grand jury is investigating allegations of sex abuse by Roman Catholic priests in the Allentown and Harrisburg dioceses, a state lawmaker said, more than a decade after Pennsylvania first got caught up in the clergy abuse scandal that has rocked the church.

Democratic state Rep. Mark Rozzi, who has said he was abused by an eastern Pennsylvania priest more than three decades ago, said he testified before the grand jury several weeks ago in Pittsburgh. His disclosure (http://bit.ly/2d44Ueo ) was first reported by The Morning Call in Allentown.

The Harrisburg Diocese confirmed it has been subpoenaed as part of a grand jury investigation and said it is cooperating with prosecutors, The Morning Call reported.

"We have zero tolerance for offenders and when a report of possible abuse is made in the Diocese of Harrisburg we promptly relay it to public authorities," spokesman Joe Aponick said.

The Allentown Diocese would not comment directly on the report but said its policy is to cooperate with law enforcement.

"The Diocese of Allentown is committed to the protection and safety of children and young people," said spokesman Matt Kerr.

Rozzi declined to provide details on his testimony. But he said "people are going to be really, really shocked, saddened, dismayed when they find out what really happened in the Allentown Diocese."

Clergy sex abuse erupted into a national crisis for the Catholic Church in 2002 when The Boston Globe persuaded a judge to unseal personnel files in the Archdiocese of Boston.

The revelations about bishops moving abusive priests among parishes without warning parents or police caused an uproar that forced American dioceses to investigate how they had dealt with abusers and treated victims going back decades.

The Philadelphia Archdiocese was hit by one of the worst scandals. A grand jury in 2005 accused it of covering up decades of abuse by dozens of priests. Then in 2011, another grand jury said the archdiocese had kept on assignment more than three dozen priests facing serious abuse allegations.

In March, a state grand jury report said two former bishops who led the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese had helped cover up the sexual abuse of hundreds of children by priests and other religious leaders over 40 years. One of the bishops died in 2005; the other, who is retired, has denied any wrongdoing.

The attorney general's office later confirmed it was using a grand jury to investigate other Catholic dioceses as well.

Jeffrey Johnson, a spokesman for the attorney general, said he could not comment on the lawmaker's claim, but he said a hotline set up after the Altoona-Johnstown report has generated calls from beyond that diocese.

Dioceses across the country have paid more than $3 billion on settlements with victims since the 1950s, according to the church's own studies and news reports.

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