Attorneys for those affected by childhood clergy sexual abuse filed a lawsuit Monday against eight Pennsylvania Catholic dioceses and their bishops to compel mandatory abuse reporting.
The lawsuit named the dioceses of Altoona-Johnstown, Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, Scranton-Wilkes-Barre and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia along with their respective bishops as defendants. Attorneys for the plaintiffs said the goal of the lawsuit is to force the aforementioned dioceses to release all of the names of clergy implicated in child abuse or relevant cover-ups in accordance with the Pennsylvania Child Protective Services Law.
The plaintiffs alleged that the dioceses “systematically failed to meet their reporting obligations.” (RELATED: Pennsylvania Bishops Are Facing A Reckoning In The Wake Of Grand Jury Sex Abuse Report)
“The goal of this lawsuit couldn’t be more straightforward: the protection of Pennsylvania’s children,” said attorney Benjamin Sweet, according to a press release from public relations firm Huss Group. “Until the church reveals the names of the predators it continues to protect, Pennsylvania’s children are not safe. The church’s coverup will continue unless and until it publicly releases the names of ALL suspected predators.”
The lawsuit comes as a reaction to legal challenges from several dioceses that prevented some of the names of alleged predatory priests mentioned in Pennsylvania’s grand jury report on clergy sex abuse from being released. The lawsuit asserts that dioceses are intentionally withholding the names of predatory priests despite being bound by law to report them openly.
The plaintiffs base their accusations on the fact that 10 of the 301 accused predator priests named in the released version of the report were already on a statewide sex offender database called the Megan’s Law Database and that 20 more names of alleged predator priests remain redacted in the report.
“As a parent, I deserve to know the names of all child predators named in the Grand Jury Report,” said Kristen Hancock, a plaintiff whose child attends a Catholic school in Pennsylvania. “It’s a shame that public safety and common sense does not prevail. It’s a shame that the Catholic Church is still driving which information becomes public. And it’s a shame that it takes a lawsuit to seek to release these names to protect our children. People deserve to know right now what additional information the Church is withholding.”
Plaintiffs are hopeful that, with the release of all of the names, authorities will be able to prosecute those crimes that have not passed the statute of limitations.
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