ALTOONA, Pa. — Two Catholic bishops who led a small Pennsylvania diocese helped cover up the sexual abuse of hundreds of children by more than 50 priests and other religious leaders over a 40-year period, according to a grand jury report that portrays the church as holding such sway over law enforcement that it helped select a police chief.
The 147-page report issued Tuesday on sexual abuse in the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese, home to nearly 100,000 Roman Catholics, was based partly on evidence from a secret diocesan archive opened through a search warrant over the summer.
In announcing the findings, Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane said the diocese's two previous bishops "placed their desire to avoid public scandal over the well-being of children."
No criminal charges are being filed in the case because some abusers have died, the statute of limitations has expired, or victims are too traumatized to testify, she said.
Of the victims, Kane said: "Their souls were killed as children. They weren't out playing baseball; they were trying to avoid priests."
"The diocese will not apologize or take responsibility for its dark history," the report said.
In a practice seen in other dioceses, the bishop created a "payout chart" to help guide how much victims would receive from the church, the report said. Victims fondled over their clothes were to be paid $10,000 to $25,000; fondled under their clothes or subjected to masturbation, $15,000 to $40,000; subjected to forced oral sex, $25,000 to $75,000; subjected to forced sodomy or intercourse, $50,000 to $175,000.