- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 21, 2005

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Leaders of the Philadelphia Archdiocese, including two cardinals, concealed sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priests for four decades, a grand jury has found, but no criminal charges can be brought against the church or its clergy because of the limits of state law.

The grand jury, convened more than three years ago, issued a scathing report yesterday that documents assaults by more than 60 priests. It also charges a cover-up by Cardinal John Krol, archbishop of Philadelphia from 1961 to 1988 who died in 1996, and his successor Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, who retired in 2003.

“To protect themselves from negative publicity or expensive lawsuits — while keeping abusive priests active — the cardinals and their aides hid the priests’ crimes from parishioners, police and the general public,” the report said.

The grand jury considered charges against the archdiocese, but said the organization can’t be prosecuted because it is an unincorporated association rather than a corporation.

“Archdiocese leaders have endangered and harmed children in parishes and schools by keeping known abusers in ministry and transferring discovered abusers to assignments where parents and potential victims are unaware of the priests’ sexual” behavior, the report said.

The report names 63 priests “whose abusive behavior was well-documented in archdiocese files and by witnesses who testified” before the grand jury.

Philadelphia District Attorney Lynne Abraham convened the grand jury investigation in April 2002 amid the nationwide scandal after the disclosure of widespread abuse in the Boston Archdiocese. In the Philadelphia area, church officials have said that 44 priests had been “credibly” accused of sexual assaults since the 1950s but only one priest in the archdiocese has been indicted.

“The evidence is clear. This reaches the top — the very top of our archdiocese,” Miss Abraham said at a press conference. “Regrettably, the perpetrators of these crimes and the people that protected them will never face the penalties they deserve.”

A call to the archdiocese’s offices was not returned.

At least 11 grand juries nationwide have completed investigations of dioceses in the past three years, but none resulted in criminal charges against bishops concerning their failures to rein in sexually abusive priests.

Still, a few bishops facing prosecutorial inquiries entered plea agreements that created funds to compensate victims or allowed outside monitoring of a diocese by law enforcement. Several of the panels — including grand juries in New York and in Boston where the abuse crisis erupted in 2002 — issued lengthy reports on the many church leaders who transferred guilty clergy from parish to parish without notifying parents or law-enforcement authorities.

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