Prosecutor to press court to release church abuse report

Pennsylvania’s highest court is being pressed to publicly release of a major grand jury report on allegations of child sexual abuse and cover-ups in six of Pennsylvania’s Roman Catholic dioceses.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro will ask the court to swiftly decide lingering legal issues before it, his office said in a statement Friday. He expects to make that request Monday.

“The people of Pennsylvania have a right to see the report, know who is attempting to block its release and why, and to hear the voices of the victims of sexual abuse within the Church,” Shapiro said in the statement.

The state Supreme Court high court is blocking the release of the report as the result of legal challenges filed under seal and the courts have declined to make those filings or dockets public, or name the people who filed the challenges.

Meanwhile, seven news organizations, including The Associated Press, on Friday filed a motion to intervene in the case in a bid to argue to the court that should release the report. If the court decides it needs more time to consider the legal challenges, it could immediately order a version of the report that shields from view only those parts that are in question, lawyers for the news organizations wrote.

The court also should make public the filings and dockets in the case, which would be consistent with practice in other grand jury matters, with redactions if necessary, the news organizations wrote.

Victim advocates have said the report is expected to be the largest and most exhaustive such review by any state. The grand jury spent two years investigating allegations of child sex abuse in the dioceses of Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh and Scranton, churches with some 1.7 million members.

Allegations of child sexual abuse, failing to report it, endangering the welfare of children and obstruction of justice involve not only people associated with the church, but “local public officials and community leaders,” according to a court document.

Living people named in the report, but not indicted, were allowed to submit written responses to allegations that would be attached to the report, according to court documents.

The court said in a five-page opinion issued last Monday that most of those people claim they are discussed in the report in a way that would violate reputational rights guaranteed by the state constitution and that they have a due process right to be heard by the grand jury.

The justices said they had not seen the entire report and needed time to sort through legal arguments.

The unnamed challengers’ claims first became public in an unsealed opinion released last month by Judge Norman Krumenacker, the supervising grand jury judge.

Krumenacker rejected their petition to challenge elements of the grand jury report before it became public, and he lifted the veil a bit on the investigation, writing that jurors had heard from dozens of witnesses and reviewed over half a million pages of internal diocesan documents.

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