This week’s release of a scathing grand jury report in Pennsylvania detailing hundreds of previously unknown sexual abuse allegations against Catholic priests has sent disturbing new questions reverberating across California and the country: How many more victims are out there and how many more abusive priests are left to be exposed?
The answer is a lot, survivors, lawyers, prosecutors and others said Wednesday as the report ripped open old wounds and had a victims’ group calling for a similar statewide investigation in California.
“We’ve been waiting for this grand jury report,” said Melanie Sakoda, of the Bay Area chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, known as SNAP. The group, she said, plans to ask California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to impanel a Grand Jury and examine abuses in the Golden State, where dioceses in Oakland, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Stockton and elsewhere were roiled in scandal in the early 2000s, with dozens of priests exposed.
“We’re saying this needs to be done in more places. Certainly Pennsylvania is not the only place this has happened or the only place that has hidden predators,” she said.
A spokesperson for Becerra’s office declined to address the request Wednesday, writing in an email that any comment could harm “a potential or ongoing investigation.”
A lawyer who has sued the church across the country, including on behalf of about 50 California victims, said such an investigation here and in other states “is critical” based on the Pennsylvania findings.
“It makes me sick to my stomach,” the lawyer, Stephen Crew, of Portland, said. “I kind of thought we (knew) about the cases. But in Pennsylvania we’re talking about 300 priests and 1,000 victims, and that’s conservative. It’s shocking, I can’t believe it.
“The Catholic Church needs to come clean,” he said.
Dan McNevin, a longtime SNAP leader in the Bay Area who was abused by a priest in Fremont, said Wednesday that he believes the church has under-counted the number of priests it knows were abusers and that accurate numbers have never been made public.
The Pennsylvania report “was a more honest expression of what went on behind closed doors,” he said. The Oakland Diocese originally identified about 30 abusive priests, but this news organization later reported in 2008 there were about 60.
“It is no accident that a secular report got to a more accurate accounting, and as long as society relies on the church to self-report, we’ll be getting these low-ball estimates and continued denial,” McNevin said.
Full story at Mercury News.