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Grand Jury Report on Catholic Church Child Sexual Abuse

PA FAMILY SUPPORT ALLIANCE URGES RENEWED COMMITMENT TO PROTECT PA KIDS IN WAKE OF GRAND JURY REPORT ON CATHOLIC CHURCH CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE

(Harrisburg, PA) - Angela M. Liddle, MPA, president and CEO of PA Family Support Alliance (PFSA), the state leader in child protection, issued the following statement today regarding the statewide grand jury report related to allegations of widespread sexual abuse of children in six Roman Catholic Church dioceses in Pennsylvania.

“The veil of secrecy that has shrouded the serial sexual abuse of children in Catholic dioceses across Pennsylvania for nearly half a century is beginning to lift. While the horror and shame of the systematic mistreatment and criminal conduct revealed in this report are beyond words, we are encouraged that the actions which have occurred in darkness have had a light shined upon them and that we have taken a few more steps toward a cultural change that will not tolerate the abuse of children.

“The grand jury’s findings confirm a deeply disturbing pattern of behavior both by the perpetrator priests and the Catholic Church hierarchy. The serial sexual abuse of children took place in an environment that enabled and protected the offenders and even when their crimes were discovered, put the protection of the institution ahead of the needs of these innocent children. 

“It’s important to note that the abuses in the Catholic Church underscored today do not happen in a vacuum. Society is rife with examples of physical and sexual mistreatment of children, most occurring at the hands of individuals who should be the most deserving of trust from their victims. While there is still much progress to be made in better protecting PA’s children, we are encouraged by those institutions that have committed to changing their organizational culture and firmly placing the safety of children as a priority. We must not minimize their efforts but encourage others to join them.

“The Roman Catholic dioceses of Altoona-Johnstown and Pittsburgh, just to name a few, use PFSA’s acclaimed ‘Recognition and Reporting Child Abuse’ program for all staff and volunteer training. These specific dioceses turned to experts in child welfare to have their policies and practices reviewed in addition to using the most comprehensive training program available.

“Children are best protected from harm when institutions consistently use a three-pronged approach: comprehensive background checks; policies and practices that promote ‘two-deep leadership’ (more than one adult at all times with children) and clear reporting guidelines; and ongoing training for volunteers and staff on child abuse recognition and reporting. If you believe your agency or organization could benefit from a child welfare expert providing training on child abuse or a review of your child abuse prevention policies and practices, please contact PFSA.

“The truth is that none of these measures will work to prevent child abuse if we do not put the protection of children first over the convenience of adults and institutions. The safety of children must be embedded into the culture of each agency, business, child-serving organization, and place of worship. Each of us has a role to play in protecting children. Let this grand jury report serve as a powerful reminder of the cost paid by our children for our shortcomings, and a deep, persistent, and urgent call to action on their behalf. Please become a PA Blue Ribbon Champion for Safe Kids. To learn more, please visit pa-fsa.org or call 800-448-4906. Because every child needs a champion.”

ABOUT PFSA: Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance prevents child abuse and protects children
from harm by helping parents learn positive parenting techniques, educating professionals and volunteers who work with children to recognize and report child abuse, and helping community members learn how they can play a positive role in keeping children safe. To learn more about our programs, schedule a training, or make a donation, please visit pa-fsa.org, or call 800-448-4906.

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