Pennsylvania clergy abuse report: Key findings from each diocese
What the long-awaited grand jury report on priest abuse across Pennsylvania says about each Roman Catholic diocese covered.
A grand jury report alleging seven decades of sexual abuse and cover-ups in six Pennsylvania Catholic dioceses was made public Tuesday in redacted form. Here are key things to know about what the explosive, long-awaited report says about each diocese covered.
What the report is
The massive report on clergy sex abuse accuses church officials of endangering children and enabling predator priests. It identifies more than 300 accused priests. The report was the subject of much legal wrangling as current and former clergy members fought to prevent their names from being publicly disclosed; the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in late July ordered that a redacted version of the report be made public. The case has put a spotlight and scrutiny on Pennsylvania's grand jury system, which allows grand juries to issue reports that implicate people who have not been charged with crimes.
The report covers six dioceses across Pennsylvania: Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh and Scranton.
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What the report said
The grand jury report accuses 37 priests from the Diocese of Allentown of having sexual contact with minors, "including grooming and fondling of genitals and/or intimate body parts, as well as penetration. . . ." The report says diocesan administrators, including bishops, "had knowledge of this conduct" and yet placed priests in ministry after complaints had been made. The report also says the diocese settled with an unspecified number victims, and it accuses officials of dissuading victims from contacting police.
In a response issued Tuesday, the diocese said that it apologized "to everyone who has been hurt by the past actions of some members of the clergy."
"Most of the incidents in the report date back decades, and the priests involved are either no longer in active ministry or deceased," the statement said, outlining steps the diocese had taken "to prevent abuse, and to provide support for victims and survivors."
In a video statement posted online Tuesday, Bishop Alfred A. Schlert said, "Abuse is abhorrent and has no place in the church," and "perpetrators are no longer in active ministry."
The report identifies all but one of the 37 priests accused of misconduct dating back at least five decades. The name of one priest, listed in what is called a "single victim group," was redacted.
The report highlights cases against three priests.
One of them, Francis J. Fromholzer, is accused of sexually abusing two teenage girls during a trip in his car in the mid-1960s, when he served as a teacher at Allentown Central Catholic High School.
One woman, identified in the report as Julianne, told the grand jury: "It was confusing because — you were always told you were going to hell if you let anybody touch you. But then you've got Father doing it."
The second victim later tried to report Fromholzer's actions to the school's principal, the Rev. Robert M. Forst, the report says. Forst allegedly responded by threatening to expel her. He then held a meeting with her father, during which Forst called the allegations a "made-up story." The report says the girl's father believed she was lying, and subsequently slapped her and beat her with a belt buckle.
Julianne tried as an adult to report Fromholzer's conduct, the report says. But two church officials rebuffed her efforts, she said. After the Boston Globe published an investigation of the Archdiocese in Boston in 2002, the report says, Julianne contacted local law enforcement. Fromholzer was never charged, but after the diocese was made aware of her complaints, the report says, Fromholzer — who had been working at a church grade school — retired.
The report says that as Julianne made church officials aware of her allegations in the early 2000s, officials repeatedly sought to discredit her as a witness "with unrelated and irrelevant attacks on her family." Those actions, the report says occurred on the watch of Bishop Edward Cullen, who, before his decade leading Allentown's diocese, was an administrator in the Philadelphia Archdiocese. In 2009, the report says, under a new bishop, the diocese formally reported the complaints against Fromholzer to the district attorney. The attempts to discredit Julianne were also sent to Schlert, Allentown's current bishop, who at the time was a monsignor, according to the report.
In the Diocese of Erie, the grand jury found 41 offenders and discovered that two bishops at the diocese knew of ongoing abuse for years but did nothing to stop it, in some cases encouraging victims to stay quiet.
The report eviscerates Bishop Michael J. Murphy, who served in the diocese from 1982 to 1990, as well as Bishop Donald W. Trautman, who led the diocese from 1990 to 2012, finding that both men worked to cover up allegations of sexual abuse and protect accused clergy.
The report highlights three cases, including that of the Rev. Chester Gawronski.
In 1986, Murphy learned that Gawronski had "fondled and masturbated" a 13- to 14-year-old boy multiple times in 1976 and 1977 under the pretext of "showing the victim how to check for cancer," according to the report.
>> FROM 2005: How priests abused, leaders enabled
That complaint was echoed by several other families in coming years, according to the report. Some families also reported that Gawronski had boys go skinny dipping on a camping trip and abused them during the trip.
In 1987, Gawronski himself provided church leadership with a list of 41 boys he "had some contact with." Gawronski put an asterisk next to 12 names, and confirmed he had performed "cancer checks" on those boys.
Gawronski was sent to Chicago for a psychological evaluation in 1987, then returned to his priestly duties. The complaints of sexual abuse continued after Trautman took over leadership of the diocese in 1990, with another victim coming forward in 1995, according to the report.
Yet in 1997, Trautman sent a letter to Gawronski lauding him for his "many acts of kindness" and "deep faith." And in 2001, he granted Gawronski a five-year assignment as a chaplain for St. Mary's Home in Erie.
Gawronski "withdrew from ministry" in February 2002, a month after the Globe revealed widespread sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of Boston.
The grand jury found evidence that 20 priests and the late Msgr. Charles Guth sexually abused children in the Diocese of Greensburg. Fourteen are deceased, six surviving priests were removed from the ministry, and one left on his own.
Evidence showed that diocesan administrators including bishops "had knowledge of this conduct and regularly permitted priests to continue in the ministry after becoming aware that a child sexual-abuse complaint had been made against them."
The diocese made settlements with victims and had discussions with lawyers regarding the sexual abuse of children by its priests that often contained confidentiality agreements forbidding victims from speaking about such abuse under threat of some penalty, such as legal action to recover previously paid settlement funds.
>> FROM 2005: Priest says archdiocese told him to stay silent on abuse
Diocesan administrators, including bishops, dissuaded victims from reporting abuse to law enforcement.
The diocese regularly failed to independently investigate allegations of child sexual abuse in order to avoid scandal and possible civil and criminal liability on behalf of the diocese, the accused priest, and diocesan leadership.
Investigations conducted by the diocese were "too often deficient or biased, and did not result in reporting credible allegations of crimes against children to the property authorities or otherwise faithfully respond to the abuse which was uncovered," the report said.
Harrisburg Diocese priests groomed, fondled, and raped victims, and several diocesan administrators, including bishops, often dissuaded those who came forward from reporting the abuse to police, according to the report. Evidence also shows that settlements designed to silence victims were common.
Two Harrisburg priests and a church leader who the grand jury said was instrumental in the diocese's handling of sexual abuse allegations are among those who fought the report's release. Their names are redacted. In all, 45 Harrisburg-area priests are identified as abusers.
The Rev. Augustine Giella not only preyed on an entire Enhaut-area family, abusing five sisters who belonged to St. John the Evangelist Church, but also surreptitiously collected and ingested their urine, pubic hair and menstrual blood.
Giella's abuse of one of those sisters was especially horrific. The fondling began when she was 18 months old and continued until she was 12. Testifying about her abuse was especially traumatic for this victim, who is now an adult. She suffered a panic attack in the grand jury suite, and several months after speaking out, she attempted suicide.
The grand jury concluded that Giella's abuse could have been stopped much earlier if church leaders had acted on an early complaint.
Jesuit priest the Rev. Arthur Long preyed on Harrisburg-area teenage girls, admitted to having sex with one and tried to marry another, but that didn't stop church leaders from shuffling his assignments several times in the 1970s and '80s.
Msgr. Hugh Overbaugh oversaw Long's work, and in one letter regarding sexual abuse allegations against Long, he wrote, "While this documentation contains numerous complaints, we seldom if ever receive word of all the good which Father Long accomplished."
In the early 1970s, Mount Carmel's Rev. Joseph Pease performed oral sex on a teenage boy who kept silent about the abuse for 20 years. The victim only came forward when he realized that his abuser was still in ministry and that his nephew was an altar server in his abuser's church.
That report came in 1995 and should have resulted in Pease's referral to law enforcement. Instead, church leaders sent Pease for psychological evaluation.
Almost 10 years later, church leaders who knew of the allegations against Pease allowed him to retire without defrocking him. Harrisburg Bishop Ronald Gainer affirmed his support for the abusive priest in a 2014 letter to the Vatican.
"I am not seeking the initiation of a trial, nor dismissal from the clerical state." he wrote. Instead, he asked that Pease "be permitted to live out his remaining years in prayer and penance, without adding further anxiety or suffering to his situation, and without risking public knowledge of his crimes."
In a statement Gainer released Tuesday in response to the grand jury's report, he expressed sorrow over the grand jury's findings and apologized to survivors.
"I acknowledge the sinfulness of those who have harmed these survivors, as well as the action and inaction of those in church leadership who failed to respond appropriately," he wrote.
Included among 99 Pittsburgh Diocese priests identified in the grand jury report as abusers was a ring, operating in the 1970s, who shared intelligence about their victims and sometimes even the victims themselves.
That "ring of predatory priests" made their own child pornography in rectories, and used "whips, violence and sadism in raping their victims."
They also would mark their victims, the grand jury said, by giving their favorite boys gold cross necklaces to wear.
"The grand jury observed that these crosses served another purpose beyond the grooming of the victims: They were a visible designation that these children were victims of sexual abuse. They were a signal to other predators that the children had been desensitized to sexual abuse and were optimal targets for further victimization."
One victim, listed in the grand jury report by the name George, testified about his interaction with a former priest, George Zirwas. who was identified as one of the priests in the predatory ring.
George testified that Zirwas spent time at his home, sharing lunch and dinner with his family, and that his family encouraged the relationship because they thought Zirwas would be a good influence on George. They looked at priests, the report said, as "'very trustworthy, very elevated."
As George transitioned into high school, the grand jury said, Zirwas took him on trips and taught him how to drive. He also took George with him as he carried out his priestly duties and visited parishioners.
Zirwas also introduced George to his friends who were also priests and took him to a parish rectory in Munhall.
It was there, George testified, where the men struck up a conversation about religious statues and asked George to get up on a bed.
As the priests watched, they asked George to remove his shirt, drawing an analogy to the image of Jesus on the cross.
They then asked George to remove his pants "so that his pose would be more consistent with the image of Christ in a loincloth," the grand jury wrote.
Then, the priests began taking Polaroid pictures of him and told George to take off his underwear. Nervous, the report said, he complied.
"He stated that all of the men giggled and stated that the pictures would be used as a reference for new religious statues for the parishes."
George, who still had the gold cross Zirwas gave him, told the grand jury the pictures were added to a collection of similar ones depicting other teenage boys.
"There was just an insidious pedophile community that permeated through at least the Pittsburgh Diocese," George told the grand jury. "And you know, my assumption as I grow older is that this was something that was happening all over the United States and it just — you know, it is very disappointing. I don't think there was anybody I could trust to tell, number one. There was never — who do you tell? Like, at the time, I was a tough kid from the South Side. It didn't, like — I just kind of — I was a survivor at the time. So that was just part of the lifestyle, I guess, and you know, I just kind of moved on … as a man, you know, who do you want to tell that other priests took pictures of you? It was pretty degrading. It is humiliating. I know, some people, it went further than that. I'm lucky it hasn't. It is still really hard to get it out there that you were in a room when you were 14 or 15 and getting naked pictures taken from priests."
The grand jury goes on to detail various types of abuse by Pittsburgh priests, including "grooming and fondling of genitals and/or intimate body parts, as well as penetration. . . ."
Some bishops and other diocesan administrators in Pittsburgh, the report said, placed the priests in ministry even though they had knowledge of the conduct.
The report also found that the diocese held discussions with lawyers regarding the sexual conduct of priests with children and reached settlements with victims that prevented them from later speaking out.
Three cases — those of Revs. Ernest Paone, Zirwas, and Richard Zula — were detailed in the report as symbolizing the "wholesale institutional failure that endangered the welfare of children" in the Pittsburgh Diocese.
Paone, who served in the late 1950s and 1960s at five parishes, was kept in active ministry for 41 years after the diocese first learned that he was sexually assaulting children, the report alleged.
The report alleges that Robert Masters, former district attorney of Beaver County, sent a letter to Bishop Vincent Leonard of the Pittsburgh Diocese in 1964 advising him he had "halted all investigations" into similar sexual abuse charges "in order to prevent unfavorable publicity."
Masters, who was presented with the letter by the grand jury, was asked why he would defer to the bishop on a criminal matter, Masters replied, "Probably respect for the bishop. I really have no proper answer." He also admitted to the grand jury that he desired support from the diocese for his political career, the report says.
The grand jury identified 59 priests alleged to have sexually abused children in the Diocese of Scranton, which covers 11 counties in northeastern Pennsylvania. The report highlighted three of those priests as examples of the "wholesale institutional failure that endangered the welfare of children" across the state.
The Rev. Robert N. Caparelli, who was ordained in 1964, is accused of abusing altar boys while serving as an assistant pastor at the parish of Most Precious Blood in Hazleton. In August 1968, a police officer sent a letter to then-Bishop J. Carroll McCormick stating that Caparelli was "demoralizing" two brothers who were 11 and 12 "in a manner that is not natural for any human that has all his proper faculties."
Three days later, according to the report, the head pastor wrote to McCormick: "This problem is too big for me. It has grown into something that is unbelievable. In other words, all that this gentleman writes is true… but there is so much that is missing, and all very, very serious."
Caparelli later admitted, in McCormick's words, that he was "acting too freely" with two altar boys, but insisted he didn't do anything immoral. An internal diocesan memorandum dismissed the boys' mother's allegations. McCormick later sent Caparelli to another parish in Old Forge and in 1981 he was appointed head pastor of St. Vincent's in Milford.
In future years, many additional victims would come forward. Caparelli later pleaded guilty to offenses against children and did prison time. While there, he tested HIV-positive. He died in prison in December 1994.
Former Bishop James Timlin "and the Diocese of Scranton never fully disclosed the decades of knowledge and inaction that left children in danger and in contact with Caparelli," the grand jury report states.
>> FROM 2005: An immoral cover-up
In October 1993, Timlin wrote to Caparelli's sentencing judge, requesting that Caparelli be released from prison to a Catholic treatment facility. A copy of the letter was sent to Robert Mellow, president pro tempore of the state Senate.
The grand jury alleged that the Rev. Thomas D. Skotek, who was ordained in 1963, sexually assaulted and impregnated a minor female while serving as pastor of St. Casimir in Freeland in the 1980s. He then helped her get an abortion.
Records show that Timlin was aware of the situation, but seemed more concerned about Skotek's well-being. In 1986, Timlin accepted Skotek's resignation as pastor of St. Stanislaus Church in Hazleton and wrote: "This is a very difficult time in your life, and I realize how upset you are. I too share your grief. … With the help of God, who never abandons us and who is always near when we need him, this too will pass away, and all will be able to pick up and go on living."
Skotek was sent to St. Luke's Institute in Maryland for an evaluation. By January 1987, Skotek returned to being a priest in Wilkes-Barre and later served in Mocanaqua. He was not removed from active ministry until June 2002.
>> FROM 2005: Abuse enablers still rank in church
The grand jury also heard from a former high school student — now 72 years old — who said that the Rev. Joseph T. Hammond masturbated in front of him in 1961 and tried to fondle him inside the rectory at St. Leo the Great parish. The victim, identified only as Joe, said he was shocked: "He was right below God as far as I was concerned," he testified.
Hammond, who was ordained in 1931, continued in the ministry until his death in 1985. Investigators found no record in Hammond's diocesan file of a complaint made by Joe's mother the day after the alleged incident. "The grand jury found Joe's testimony to be credible and this case demonstrative of the lasting effect of child sexual abuse," the report states. "Joe sought justice at 72 years of age … While Hammond may be dead, the impact of his actions live on."
The Diocese of Scranton responded to the grand jury report with a statement in which Bishop Joseph Bamber, who took over in 2010, offered his "deepest apologies to the victims who have suffered because of past actions and decisions made by trusted clergymen, to victims' families, to the faithful of the church, and to the community at large."
"No one deserves to be confronted with the behavior described in the report," the statement read. "Although painful to acknowledge, it is necessary to address such abuse in order to foster a time when no child is abused and no abuser is protected."
The diocese said it cooperated with the grand jury probe and now adheres to a "strict zero tolerance policy" on child abuse. It said officials immediately notify law enforcement and remove accused priests from the community when allegations surface.
Past grand jury reports
Two grand jury investigations led to accusations against scores of active and retired clerics, but only a few charges. A 2005 grand jury report, the first of its kind nationwide, described in more than 400 pages how the archdiocese shuffled abusive priests among parishes and kept parishioners in the dark.
Only one priest was charged, and Philadelphia's then-District Attorney Lynne M. Abraham blamed flaws in the state's criminal statute of limitations from enabling her to charge any top church leaders.
Six years later, an investigation by her successor accused the five-county archdiocese of still failing to remove abusive priests and for the first time nationwide brought criminal charges against a church administrator for ignoring or covering up clergy sex abuse.
After being convicted of endangering children, Msgr. William J. Lynn spent almost three years in prison before being freed on appeal. He awaits a new trial.
In March 2016, then-Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane released a grand jury report that accused the eight-county diocese of ignoring or concealing abuse by at least 50 priests in past decades.
Investigators said church leaders even kept a "payout chart" that dictated how much money to give each accuser.
While those claims were too old to prosecute, Kane did bring charges against three Franciscan friars accused of covering up serial abuse by a former brother and teacher at a Catholic high school in Johnstown. Two were sentenced to probation this year after pleading to child endangerment.
Staff writers Chris Palmer, William Bender, Jessica Calefati, and Michael Boren contributed to this article, as did David Templeton, Shelly Bradbury, and Paula Reed Ward of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.