HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania — Pennsylvania’s highest court said its decision last week to hold up the release of a major grand jury report on sexual abuse in six Roman Catholic dioceses is the result of challenges filed by “many individuals” cited in the report.
The Supreme Court said in a five-page opinion released Monday that most of those individuals claim they are discussed in the report in a way that would violate reputational rights guaranteed by the state constitution. They also say they have a due process right to be heard by the grand jury.
“A number of the petitioners asserted that they were not aware of, or allowed to appear at, the proceedings before the grand jury,” the court said in the unanimous, unsigned opinion.
The high court said the attorney general’s office did not object to a brief hold on the report.
A spokesman for the state prosecutors’ office said they were opposed to what he called an effort to “permanently suppress the voices of victims of widespread sexual abuse within the Catholic Church.”
Joe Grace, spokesman for Democratic Attorney General Josh Shapiro, said the office was fighting to ensure publication of the report.
“While we did not oppose giving the court a matter of days to conduct a careful review and promptly rule on these motions, that time is quickly expiring,” Grace said.
A grand jury spent two years investigating sex abuse by clergy in the dioceses of Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh and Scranton, churches with some 1.7 million members.
The role played by Church officials, local public officials and community leaders was also investigated.
The justices said they have not seen the entire report and that the constitutional claims that have been made need to be developed adequately.
“The court intends to revisit the stay order when the proceedings before it have advanced to a stage at which either the petitions for review can be resolved, or an informed and fair determination can be made as to whether a continued stay is warranted,” the order said.
Victim advocates have said the report is expected to be the largest and most exhaustive such review by any state.
Judge Norman Krumenacker, the Cambria County-based grand jury supervisory judge, said jurors heard from dozens of witnesses and reviewed over half a million pages of internal documents from diocesan archives.
The investigation covered claims of child sexual abuse, failure to report to law enforcement and obstruction of justice, Krumenacker said.