Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro told NBC’s “Today” Show on Tuesday that he and his team have evidence that the Vatican had knowledge of the systematic cover up of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, specifically in the Pennsylvania Archdiocese.
Shapiro reiterated findings from the report that the state’s Supreme Court released on Aug. 14 that detailed clergy sex abuse across six dioceses in Pennsylvania, but added a chilling admission that the Vatican was well aware of the abuse.
An estimated 300 Pennsylvania priests have been abused of sexually abusing more than 1,000 children, and probably more, since the 1940s. (REPORT: Pennsylvania Bishop Covered For Priest Who Allegedly Raped A Girl And Forced Her To Abort)
When asked if Pope Francis had knowledge of the abuse and coverup, Shapiro said he couldn’t comment on him specifically, but said the Vatican did in fact know.
“We have evidence that the Vatican had knowledge of the cover up,” Shapiro said.
“I think broader issues here with the Vatican knowing about this, with church leaders knowing about it and the reaction you’ve seen not just from Catholics, but from Americans and people all across the globe is a fundamental disappointment and anger in institutions,” he added.
Shapiro also said the grand jury’s research uncovered a systematic trail of a cover-up “that went all the way to the Vatican.”
“Church leaders would lie to parishioners on Sunday, they would lie to the public, they would shield these predators from the public, but they would document all of it and place it in these secret archives, feet away from the bishops,” Shapiro said.
In the two weeks since the report was released, Shapiro says Pennsylvania’s clergy abuse hotline has received more than 730 calls.
Shapiro said his office is following up on every single call.
Shapiro isn’t the first figure to accuse Francis of knowing about the church’s abuse and cover-up.
Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, who served as the top Vatican diplomat to the U.S. from 2011 to 2016, released an 11-page letter Sunday alleging Francis’ knowledge of abuse by Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, a since-resigned priest accused of sexually abusing boys for decades. (RELATED: Former Vatican Diplomat Accuses Pope Francis Of Complicity In Covering Up McCarrick’s Abuses, Calls For His Resignation)
“In this extremely dramatic moment for the universal Church, he must acknowledge his mistakes and, in keeping with the proclaimed principle of zero tolerance, Pope Francis must be the first to set a good example for cardinals and bishops who covered up McCarrick’s abuses and resign along with all of them,” Viganò said in the letter.
Shapiro said that, through this investigation, he feels he’s given other victims a voice and hopes that if he can bring more cases against priests or anyone else who has covered up abuse, he will do so.
“We’re seeing institutions, whether it’s Hollywood, universities, government centers and certainly the church, putting their institutional reputation above the welfare of children,” Shapiro said. “We will not tolerate that in Pennsylvania and should not tolerate it anywhere.”
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