Re­port, two years in the mak­ing, may soon be re­leased

The Hazleton Standard-Speaker - - FRONT PAGE - BY MARK SCOLFORO

HARRISBURG — A damn­ing re­port into al­le­ga­tions of decades of child sex­ual abuse at the hands of clergy mem­bers and ef­forts to cover it up in six of Penn­syl­va­nia’s Ro­man Catholic dio­ce­ses is ex­pected to be re­leased in the com­ing days.

The pub­lic dis­clo­sure of the find­ings, the re­sult of an al­most two-year grand jury in­ves­ti­ga­tion, has been de­layed while some of the peo­ple named in the re­port have launched le­gal chal­lenges, ar­gu­ing the re­port is in­ac­cu­rate and re­leas­ing it in its cur­rent form would vi­o­late their con­sti­tu­tional rights to their rep­u­ta­tions and to due process of law.

The state Supreme Court has agreed to con­sider those claims and sched­uled the mat­ter for oral ar­gu­ment in Septem­ber. In the mean­time, the court has or­dered iden­ti­fy­ing in­for­ma­tion re­gard­ing those chal­lenges to be redacted and the nearly 900-page re­port to be re­leased.

The jus­tices last week ap­pointed a se­nior ju­rist, McKean County Judge John Cle­land, to serve as a spe­cial master who will sort out dis­putes over what must be blacked out.

The court said if the chal­lengers didn’t ob­ject to redac­tions made by the at­tor­ney gen­eral’s of­fice, the re­port would be re­leased by last Wed­nes­day. That date came and went with­out the re­port’s re­lease, sug­gest­ing there is a be­hind-the-scenes con­flict pend­ing be­fore Cle­land.

The court di­rected Cle­land to re­solve any redac­tion dis­putes and then re­lease the re­port by 2 p.m. on Tues­day. The jus­tices also warned the lawyers against “pro­vok­ing or in­sti­gat­ing un­nec­es­sary an­cil­lary lit­i­ga­tion” over pro­duc­ing the redacted ver­sion of the re­port.

What’s in the re­port

Some de­tails about what’s in the re­port have been made pub­lic, in­clud­ing the dis­clo­sure by the state Supreme Court that it will iden­tify more than 300 “preda­tor priests.”

In June, Cam­bria County Judge Nor­man Kru­me­n­acker, who su­per­vised the grand jury, said the find­ings in­volved al­le­ga­tions of child sex­ual abuse, fail­ure to re­port it, en­dan­ger­ing the wel­fare of chil­dren and ob­struc­tion of jus­tice by peo­ple “as­so­ci­ated with the Ro­man Catholic Church, lo­cal pub­lic of­fi­cials and com­mu­nity lead­ers.”

The grand jury fo­cused on al­le­ga­tions go­ing back decades in the Al­len­town, Erie, Greens­burg, Harrisburg, Pitts­burgh and Scran­ton dio­ce­ses. Pre­vi­ous re­ports ad­dressed child mo­lesta­tion by priests in the Philadel­phia and Al­toon­aJohn­stown dio­ce­ses.

Two priests have been charged crim­i­nally as a re­sult of the grand jury in­ves­ti­ga­tion, but the state’s statute of lim­i­ta­tions for child sex­ual abuse is a bar­rier that could pre­vent ad­di­tional charges, par­tic­u­larly con­sid­er­ing that many al­le­ga­tions go back decades.

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