Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro holds hands with Judy Deaven who says her son was a victim of sexual abuse by a priest as a boy, during a news conference at the Pennsylvania Capitol in Harrisburg, on August 14, 2018. "We feel certain that many victims never came forward, and that the dioceses did not create written records every single time they heard something about abuse".
The U.S. Catholic church has spent and committed to spending almost $4 billion in settlements and court awards relating to sexual abuse cases involving priests and other church officials over the last 65 years, according to a 2014 report; most of those payments came in recent years.
The report details accounts of over 1,000 children victimized by predator priests across the state but the grand jury noted that the actual number of victims could be much higher.
Several of the dioceses issued statements apologizing to victims and saying they were taking steps to ensure any criminal behaviour was stopped. He said Persico was the only one to testify in person to the grand jury.
Church officials referred to the written reports of abuse as "secret archives", said Mr. Shapiro, indicating their complacency in the cover-up.
In the news conference, Shapiro described allegations of a priest who physically molested a group of children by telling them he was doing a "cancer check", one who he said "impregnated" a girl, others who had boys strike a religious pose naked to take pictures of them. Many others are retired or have been dismissed from the priesthood or put on leave.
In Erie, the Rev. David Poulson awaits trial on charges of sexually abusing two boys over many years.
But prior to that, when the youngest victim of the family told her parents in 1992, a police search of the priest's home found panties, plastic containers of pubic hairs, vials of urine, and sexually suggestive photographs of young girls.
More than 1,000 children were victimized by hundreds of "predator priests" over seven decades in Pennsylvania - and the Catholic Church engaged in a massive cover-up to keep it all under wraps, according to a new report from a grand jury.
"We think it's reasonable to expect one of the world's great religions, dedicated to the spiritual well-being of over a billion people, to find ways to organize itself so that the shepherds stop preying upon the flock", the grand jury said.
The introduction of the report provides several examples of how the dioceses investigated ignored allegations or even praised priests accused of sexual abuse.
Bishop Zubik said he supported all four of the attorney general's proposal, including the recommendation to do away with statutes of limitations for the sexual abuse of minors.
In Erie, a 7-year-old boy was sexually abused by a priest who then told him he should go to confession and confess his "sins" to that same priest. Another child drank juice, only to wake up the next morning bleeding from his rectum and unable to remember what had happened.
Lennon, who said he was raped by a priest in Iowa when he was 12, said the Pennsylvania report should serve as a reminder of how prevalent abuse has been in the church.
Some clergy members say they are wrongfully accused and want to challenge the allegations.
Peter Isely, a longtime advocate for victims of sexual abuse, said groups have always been pressing the USA government for a national investigation of child sex abuse, especially in the Catholic Church. That story was turned into Oscar-winning Hollywood movie, Spotlight, starring Michael Keaton.
Theodore McCarrick, a former archbishop of Washington, resigned in disgrace as a cardinal last month after accusations that he abused a 16-year-old boy decades ago resurfaced.
Its impact extends well beyond the state of Pennsylvania, especially as it comes as the next awful blow to Catholics still dealing with the scandal of former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and the ongoing lurid crises of sexual abuse, corruption and apparent spiritual and moral rot in Chile, Honduras and elsewhere.