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A Catholic crisis: A visual narrative of the grand jury report release

Two of the five Fortney sisters, who were sexually abused as children, embrace during a press conference held by Attorney General Josh Shapiro for the release of a grand jury report investigating sexual abuse in six of Pennsylvania’s Catholic dioceses, Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2018, in the state Capitol building in Harrisburg. The sisters asked only to be identified by their last name. (Steve Mellon/Post-Gazette)


A statewide grand jury that spent nearly two years investigating six Roman Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania said it identified more than 1,000 child victims of more than 300 abusive priests across 54 of the state’s 67 counties.

Still, the grand jury wrote in the report’s introduction that there are likely many more victims.

“We believe that the real number of children whose records were lost, or who were afraid ever to come forward is in the thousands,” they wrote.

The report provides detailed stories of abuse and cover-up, along with recommendations to change laws to allow victims to more easily report abuse.

Reporting by Paula Reed Ward

Attorney General Josh Shapiro speaks at a press conference for the release of the long-anticipated grand jury report, Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2018, in the state Capitol building in Harrisburg. (Steve Mellon/Post-Gazette)


99 priests accused in Pittsburgh

The report named 99 “predator priests” from the Pittsburgh Diocese. At a press conference held soon after the report’s release, Pittsburgh Bishop David Zubik began with a prayer and an apology.

“Ever since I first met victims of clergy child sexual abuse in 1988, I have seen the immense pain that this crime causes to its victims, to their loved ones and to the heart of Jesus. Their words break my heart,” Bishop Zubik said.

Reporting by Adam Smeltz

David Zubik, bishop of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, speaks to the media about the grand jury report, Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2018, in Downtown. (Michael M. Santiago/Post-Gazette)


Survivors speak out

Juliann Bortz, Jim Faluszczak and Jim VanSickle are three of the abuse survivors who testified before the grand jury.

In Focus Video

Jim VanSickle

Mr. VanSickle recalled the “long walk” on his way to testify.

“I was nervous, I was sweating, thinking, ‘Lord, give me the words that I need,’” said Mr. VanSickle, 55, of Coraopolis.

Reporting by Peter Smith

In Focus Video

Jim Faluszczak

Mr. Faluszczak, who testified that he was abused numerous times as a teenager in Erie, became a priest in the Diocese of Erie in 1996. But he was retraumatized when he visited the places of his abuse and learned of other stories.

“I never intended to make a splash,” said Mr. Faluszczak, 49, who now lives in Buffalo, N.Y. “I don’t want to stand in front of the cameras, I don’t want to talk about how my first sexual experience was with a priest.”

Reporting by Peter Smith

In Focus Video

Abuse victim Jim Faluszczak is comforted by Juliann Bortz, center, and an unidentified woman as Attorney General Josh Shapiro speaks at a press conference for the release of the grand jury report, Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2018, in the state Capitol building in Harrisburg. (Steve Mellon/Post-Gazette)


‘A playbook for concealing the truth’

Attorney General Josh Shapiro held a press conference in Harrisburg to discuss the grand jury’s findings. Flanked by victims and their families, he recounted detailed stories of abuse and cover-up. But dozens of pages in the report were blacked out from public view pending legal challenges by some clergy named by the grand jury.

“Every redaction represents an incomplete story of abuse that deserves to be told,” Mr. Shapiro said. “You can be certain that we will fight vigorously to remove every redaction and tell every story of abuse and expose every cover-up.”

Reporting by Liz Navratil and Angela Couloumbis

Attorney General Josh Shapiro speaks at a press conference for the release of the grand jury report, Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2018, in the state Capitol building in Harrisburg. (Stephanie Strasburg/Post-Gazette)


‘I just want them to admit they’re wrong’

Robert Mizic, 47, who says he was abused by a priest in suburban Philadelphia 35 years ago, watched the press conference from his home in Turtle Creek.

In Focus Video

Lawmaker pushes for change

Rep. Mike Rozzi, D-Berks, was sexually abused by a priest at his Catholic church as a child. He has pushed for changing the state’s statute of limitation laws to allow victims to bring more cases against abusers.

In Focus Video

Past Erie bishops accused of cover up

The grand jury found 41 priests accused of abuse in the Diocese of Erie. Attorney General Josh Shapiro commended Bishop Lawrence Persico for being the only current bishop to testify before the grand jury. But his predecessor, Bishop Donald W. Trautman, who led the diocese from 1990 to 2012, was accused of allowing priests to continue working after learning of abuse allegations.

In addition to the Dioceses of Pittsburgh and Erie the report also investigated allegations of abuse and coverup in the Greensburg, Harrisburg, Allentown and Scranton dioceses.

Reporting by Shelly Bradbury

Lawrence Persico, bishop of the Diocese of Erie, addresses the grand jury report, Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2018, at diocese office in Erie. (Nate Guidry/Post-Gazette)


Pittsburgh Diocese faces backlash

At his press conference in Pittsburgh, Bishop Zubik defended his predecessor, Cardinal Donald Wuerl. According to the report, Cardinal Wuerl allowed a molesting priest, Ernest C. Paone, to remain in ministry for years despite being made aware of the priest’s long history of abuse.

Since the release, a group of alumni from Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic High School in Cranberry started an online petition to remove Cardinal Wuerl’s name from the school. A sign in front of the school was found vandalized Monday morning, with Cardinal Wuerl’s name covered in red spray paint. Two days later, Bishop Zubik announced that Cardinal Wuerl’s name will be removed from the school.

Bishop Zubik’s own actions were also questioned. The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) called for his resignation Wednesday, saying he is denying a cover-up by the Diocese of Pittsburgh despite “overwhelming evidence to the contrary.”

Reporting by Andrew Goldstein, Elizabeth Behrman, Liz Navratil and Shelly Bradbury.

Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, takes part in Mass at Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle, Wednesday, August 15, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)
David Zubik, bishop of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, departs after addressing the media about the grand jury report, Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2018, in Downtown. (Michael M. Santiago/Post-Gazette)


Priests question how to respond

In the days since the release of the report, priests have been addressing it in person, in bulletins and even on Twitter.

During the first week the report was public, The Rev. Lou Vallone, pastor of St. John of God Parish in McKees Rocks and St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Crescent, said he spent much of the week hearing from “devastated” members of his parishes.

“To be honest, our people are moving beyond anger into rage over this,” he said. “We can and must deal with anger, especially when it’s justified. When people ask me and talk to me, if somebody is enraged and just going over the top, I just absorb it. When they’re enraged, I just stand and absorb it.”

Reporting by Anya Sostek

Rev. Lou Vallone, the pastor of St. John of God Parish, puts on his vestments before ministering at a funeral service, Friday, Aug 17, 2018, in McKees Rocks. (Lake Fong/Post-Gazette)


Accused priests react

Two priests named in the report, the Rev. John Bauer and the Rev. John Geinzer, are currently serving in the Pittsburgh Diocese. Rev. Bauer is listed as having “wrestled with” multiple adolescents and is accused of providing alcohol to those children, which he denied during service on Sunday. Rev. Geinzer was accused of “inappropriately touching a 13-year-old boy in 1980.” Rev. Geinzer was not present at Sunday Mass at the Saints Peter and Paul Home, where he heads the chapel.

Reporting by Dan Hopey and John Hayes

The Rev. John Bauer, left, gives communion to longtime parishioner Karen Dunham of Masontown, right, during Mass, Sunday, August 19, 2018, at St. Hugh Catholic Church in Carmichaels. Parishioners like Dunham say they will continue to stand firmly behind Bauer. (Jessie Wardarski/Post-Gazette)


Activists demand change

SNAP members rallied outside the Diocese of Pittsburgh’s office Downtown to make demands of the diocese, including placing copies of the grand jury report in churches and publicly denouncing those who helped cover up abuse.

The diocese is open to allowing legal action against predatory clergy even if a statute of limitations has expired, a diocesan spokesman said Monday, though the idea is legally questionable.

Reporting by Adam Smeltz

Judy Jones, Midwest leader of the Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, talks with the Rev. Ronald Lengwin outside the Diocese of Pittsburgh headquarters, Monday, Aug. 20, 2018, in Downtown. (Darrell Sapp/Post-Gazette)


A terrible discovery

In the wake of the report, two sisters, Mary Robb Jackson and Cynthia Carr Gardner, realized the had both been abused by the Rev. Lawrence O’Connell as young girls.

“This can’t continue,” Ms. Jackson said. “There’s no more sliding anymore. There’s no more pretending this doesn’t exist — saying you’re sorry and you’re ashamed — that doesn’t cut it. It can’t be enough.”

In the week since the report’s release, the Diocese of Pittsburgh has fielded about 50 new allegations of abuse by priests.

Reporting by Paula Reed Ward and Adam Smeltz

Mary Robb Jackson, longtime on-air personality on KDKA, poses for a portrait, Monday, Aug. 20, 2018, at her home in Mt. Lebanon. (Steve Mellon/Post-Gazette)