Pennsylvania Supreme Court says priest sex abuse grand jury report needs more review

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Monday said it stopped the planned release of a report investigating decades of child sexual abuse in six Catholic dioceses, including the Diocese of Allentown, because “many” people raised complaints that it would unfairly tarnish their reputations.

Pennsylvania Supreme Court says priest sex abuse grand jury report needs more review

The unsigned opinion says most, if not all, of the petitioners are people named in the report who are alleging that it “unconstitutionally infringes on their right to reputation and denies them due process.” Each of the six dioceses last week issued statements saying they had not taken legal steps to block the report.

Under the grand jury law, individuals who are not charged with a crime but about whom the report is critical may be allowed to see it and issue a reply to be incorporated in the final product.

 

The court did not lay out a timetable for release of the report, which it acknowledged is of great public interest. Around 1.7 million Catholics are in the six dioceses under investigation, with up to 250,000 in the Allentown Diocese.

The petitioners’ assertions get at the heart of the investigative grand jury process in Pennsylvania, which operates in secrecy and is not a forum for targets of the investigation to speak. Some of the petitioners, the Supreme Court order says, “were not aware of, or allowed to appear at, the proceedings before the grand jury.”

As the report developed, unknown numbers of individuals named in the report sought a hearing before the supervising judge, Cambria County Judge Norman A. Krumenacker III.

In a rare public filing, Krumenacker this month denied the hearings, saying earlier rulings held that because the grand jury proceedings are investigative, they do not violate individuals’ due process rights. Permitting those individuals to testify or present evidence on their own behalf “would disrupt the investigative function while affording little additional safeguards,” he wrote.

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