Aug. 14 (UPI) -- Six Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania systematically covered up the sexual abuse of more than 1,000 children by hundreds of clergymen over the past seven decades, a grand jury report released Tuesday said.
The comprehensive investigation determined officials within the Roman Catholic Church regularly put the institution above the interests of the victims. The grand jury examined half a million pages of evidence dating back to 1947 but said the real number of victims could be even higher, citing lost records and children afraid to report the abuse.
"Priests were raping little boys and girls, and the men of God who were responsible for them not only did nothing; they hid it all. For decades," the 900-page report said. "Monsignors, auxiliary bishops, bishops, archbishops, cardinals have mostly been protected; many, including some named in this report, have been promoted. Until that changes, we think it is too early to close the book on the Catholic Church sex scandal."
The report details sexual abuse by "predator priests" in six dioceses -- Allenton, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh and Scranton. Other grand juries previously detailed similar abuse in the Altoona-Johnstown and Philadelphia dioceses.
In one case, a priest in Harrisburg abused five sisters from the same family. Another in Greensburg impregnated a 17-year-old girl, and married and divorced her within months.
Attorney General Josh Shapiro said at a news conference Tuesday, "The pattern was abuse, deny and cover up."
The report said the majority of the cases of alleged abuse were too old to prosecute, but it issued presentments against two priests in the Greensburg and Erie dioceses.