As a scathing grand jury report reveals that hundreds of Catholic priests in the state of Pennsylvania sexually abused young children, a portion focuses specifically on Pittsburgh where nearly 100 priests are accused of running a pedophile ring where they helped each other prey on helpless children with no oversight.
The report claims that at least 99 priests in the Pittsburgh Diocese were involved in the pedophile ring—nine of whom were not named—and they received help from local officials who refused to explore investigations into the abuse because it was considered “bad publicity” for the Catholic Church.
The priests are accused of working together in a predatory ring that was ongoing for years in which they “manufactured child pornography, shared intelligence on victims and gave large gold crosses to certain boys to mark them as already being ‘groomed,’ for abuse,” according to a report from Penn Live.
The accusations have been around for decades, and one of the earliest reports dates back to 1964 when a child attempted to report the horrific abuse he endured at the hands of a priest in his church, and former Beaver County District Attorney Robert Masters shut down the investigation and insisted that the church needed to handle it from within.
The church did handle it—by simply sending the accused pedophile, Father Ernest Paone, to a different diocese where he continued in his career and was later given direct access to young boys again. The accusations from 1964 were not the first time Paone had been called out either, and the report from Penn Live claimed that “church officials had extensive knowledge of Paone’s sexual conduct with children as early as 1962 and questions about his ‘emotional and physical health’ as early as the 1950s when he was in seminary.”
Unfortunately, Paone’s story is not unique, and the Catholic Church has a disturbing history of looking the other way and blindly reassigning pedophile priests who had been accused of sexually abusing children and choosing to continue to give them access to vulnerable children.
The latest grand jury report looks at six of the eight Catholic dioceses in the state of Pennsylvania, and it accuses more than 300 priests of engaging in sexually abusing children. That number does not even begin to cover the hundreds of other priests and church leaders who helped to cover up the abuse, in the name of “protecting” the Catholic Church’s image.
The report lists more than 1,000 victims, which is a low estimate, as there are likely thousands of victims whose pleas for help were never heard or were blatantly ignored by people in power. As the New York Times noted, the horrific abuse carried out by the priests was shown in a number of forms that affected both young boys and girls: