Ross Investigates

Abuse Victims Call for ‘Holy Week’ Atonement by the Catholic Church

Leaders of the Catholic Church should use Holy Week to atone for the sexual abuse of thousands of children and stop efforts “to cover up” for the scandal, survivors and their supporters say.

Shaun Dougherty, who says he was abused by his parish priest in Johnstown, Pennsylvania at the age of 10, says the church continues to lobby against a change in Pennsylvania state law that would allow prosecutors more latitude to bring charges for acts committed in the past.

“The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference of Bishops has a lobbying arm of their conference and they are using it and wielding it heavily in Harrisburg at the Capitol.” Dougherty said.

Doughtery is one of the more than one-thousand victims cited in a recent Pennsylvania grand jury report who were abused by priests of deacons. The state attorney general, Josh Shapiro, said the abuse went unchecked and unpunished for decades, and said there were efforts to keep his report from becoming public.

“They sought to do the same things that senior church leaders and the diocese we investigated have done for decades: bury the sexual abuse by priests upon children and cover it up forever.” Shapiro said when he presented the report last year.

His report, and similar efforts in other states, has led to a new wave of victims coming forward to allege they, too, were abused priests, according to the executive director SNAP, a survivors’ support group.

This is “a vindication of the experiences that survivors have gone through and a chance for the public to really see these stories in their full breadth and detail and recognize the reality of these situations.” said Zach Hiner of SNAP.

Federal grand juries in New York and Pennsylvania are currently investigating and attorney generals from more than a dozen states are also conducting reviews

Yet, the president of the Catholic League, Bill Donohue, says the scandal is a “myth” and that there is “no crisis.”

“There’s been a huge problem, particularly 60s, 70s, and 80s. We don’t have a crisis in the United States today. That’s long over.” said Donohue on the Brian Ross Investigates program.

Jake Kaplan contributed to this report.

[Image via Filippo Monteforte/AFP/Getty Images]

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