Friday’s revelation that the landmark grand jury report on clergy child sexual abuse identifies more than 300 “predator priests” in six of Pennsylvania’s Roman Catholic dioceses further justifies the need for its release.
State Supreme Court justices said the report, which they say details abuse going back decades and allegations of cover-up efforts, will be made public but without the names or “individual specific information” of priests and others who have challenged the findings, at least in the initial version to be released.
The court wants the redaction process to be completed by Aug. 8, when the 900-page report is expected to be made public. If there are disputes about what a court-appointed special master should black out, the report will go out the following week.
The Supreme Court said it will consider the challenges by some priests and others who say their constitutional rights to their reputations and to due process of law are being violated, based on not being able to address the grand jury.
We agree with Chief Justice Thomas Saylor — those concerns are justification for the redactions. To be named in a report is short of being accused of a crime through a criminal affidavit, and so due process is lacking and should be afforded. Saylor said there are divisions within the court about what can be done to provide the required due process of law, and that the court will hold oral arguments on the subject in Philadelphia in September.
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Meanwhile, the seriousness of the offenses and the need for the public to know exactly what has transpired and who can be criminally charged must proceed. We admire Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s bold move in requesting Pope Francis help tamp down the legal challenges to the report’s release. In a letter dated Wednesday, he struck at an important tenant of the pope’s reputation in saying, “I am a great admirer of you and your work — especially your commitment to fighting for the defenseless. ... You pledged to follow the path of truth wherever it my lead.”
His approach may work, considering Saturday’s news. In a move described as unprecedented, Pope Francis effectively stripped U.S. prelate Theodore McCarrick of his cardinal’s title and rank following allegations of sexual abuse, acting even before the accusations can be investigated by church officials. McCarrick was previously one of the highest, most well-known Catholic church officials in the United States and was heavily involved in the church’s response to allegations of priestly abuse.
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Publication of the report and the eventual naming of anyone for whom there is sufficient evidence to charge with a crime is the only means through which the church and its followers, the accused and the victims, have any opportunity to move on.