Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro alleges sex abuse cover-up by Vatican and high-ranking church officials

By Steve Pope | August 28, 2018

In two recent interviews Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro accused Pittsburgh Bishop David Zubik of lying when he claimed there was no cover-up of child sex abuse cases. He also said the Vatican participated in covering up some cases.

Mr. Shapiro said during an interview published Monday in the New York Times, that contrary to public statements made by Bishop Zubik and former Greensburg Bishop Lawrence Brandt, that they welcomed the release of the grand jury report both men, “were working behind the scenes to shut the report down.”

“There were all kinds of efforts being led by our opponents within the church and supporters of the church, really powerful lobbyists and lawyers” who filed legal documents or took steps “to either derail our investigation or shut it down,” he said.

Neither man was specifically named by Mr. Shapiro during the interview.

In a Tuesday interview with CBS This Morning, Mr. Shapiro took issue with Bishop Zubik’s Aug. 14 statement saying, “There was no cover-up going on.” “He’s not telling the truth and the church’s own documents prove that,” he said.

During the interview Mr. Shapiro also responded sharply to church supporters and others who have said that the abuse occurred years — even decades ago saying, “Child rape in 1970 is the same as child rape 2018.  It is never acceptable and it is never okay to cover it up.”

According to court records 13 current or former clergy members have filed objections with the Pa. Supreme Court objecting to the release of their names.  The report was released with their names redacted and the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments on their objections in Sept.

The grand jury report released two weeks ago names over 301 priests that were alleged to have abused children throughout Western Pennsylvania, some cases date back over 40 years.

In another interview on Tuesday, he said the Vatican was aware that some abuse cases were being hushed. During the interview with NBC’s “Today Show” Mr. Shapiro said, “We have evidence that the Vatican had knowledge of the cover-up.” However, he added that he could not speak specifically regarding Pope Francis.

Labeling the abuse as “criminally and morally reprehensible,” the Vatican in an Aug. 16 statement responding to the report expressed “shame and sorrow.” Vatican spokesperson Greg Burke added, “The Holy See treats with great seriousness the work of the Investigating Grand Jury of Pennsylvania and the lengthy Interim Report it has produced. The Holy See condemns unequivocally the sexual abuse of minors.”

What is believed to be the first lawsuit brought by an alleged abuse victim, was filed in Pittsburgh Tuesday, according to a news release from Alan Perer, the man’s attorney.  The court filing is a three page Writ of Summons which merely provides notice that a claim has been filed in court.

The lawsuit, the release said, is based on information in the grand jury report taken from Diocese records including information regarding John S. Hoehl, who was employed as a priest, pastor, and later as a high school Headmaster by the Diocese.

The report lists more than 20 complaints of abuse allegedly committed by Hoehl.

Mr. Perer said in the release that his client was never made aware of Hoehl’s sexual abuse history and that he was diagnosed as a pedophile, because of the Diocese’s conspiracy of silence and fraudulent concealment. Mr. Perer said he will  argue in court the normal statute of limitations in this and similar cases do not apply because of the concealment.

According to the release additional cases are expected to be filed.

A Pittsburgh Diocese spokesman did not return a phone call Tuesday seeking comment regarding the lawsuit.

Steve Pope can be contacted at


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