On Thursday, the Vatican's media relations office released the following translation into English of its statement concerning the spiraling sex scandal in Pennsylvania. A report by a statewide grand jury revealed sexual abuse committed by priests, seminarians and lay peopel dating back to the 1940s:

"Regarding the report made public in Pennsylvania this week, there are two words that can express the feelings faced with these horrible crimes: shame and sorrow.

"The Holy See treats with great seriousness the work of hte Investigating Grand Jury of Pennsylvania and the lengthy Interim Report it has produced. The Holy See condemns unequivocably the sexual abuse of minors.

"The abuses described in the report are criminal and morally reprehensible. Those acts were bgetrayls of trust that robbed survivors of their dignity and their faith. The Church must learn hard lessons from its past, and there should be accountability for both abusers and those who permitted abuse to occur.

"Most of the discussion in the report concerns abuses before the early 2000s. By finding almost no cases after 2002, the Grand Jury's conclusions are consistent with previous studies showing that Catholic Church reforms in the United States drastically reduced the incidence of clergy child abuse. The Holy See encourages continued reform and vigilance at all levels of the Catholic Church. The Holy See also wants to underscore the need to comply with the civil law, including mandatory child abuse reporting requirements.

"The Holy Father understands well how much these crimes can shake the faith and the spirit of believers and reiterates the call to make every effort to create a safe environment for minors and vulnerable adults in the Church and all of society.

"Victims should know that the Pope is on their side. Those who have suffered are his priority, and the Churchs wants to listen to them to root out this tragic horror that destroys the lives of the innocent."

Debunked?

William Donohue, who leads the Catholic League -- a nonprofit that defends the civil rights of Catholics and the Catholic Church -- issued a 16-page review of the Pennsylvania report, which in his words is "debunked."

Donohue wrote:

"Unlike most commentators and reporters, I have read most of the Pennsylvania grand jury report. The purpose of this statement is to debunk many of the myths, and indeed lies, that mar the report and/or interpretations of it.

"Myth: Over 300 priests were found guilty of preying on youngsters in Pennsylvania.

"Fact: No one was found guilty of anything. Yet that didn't stop CBS from saying "300 'predator priests' abused more than 1,000 children over a period of 70 years." These are all accusations, most of which were never verified by either the grand jury or the dioceses. The report, and CBS, are also wrong to say that all of the accused are priests. In fact, some were brothers, some were deacons, and some were seminarians.

"How many of the 300 were probably guilty? Maybe half. My reasoning? The 2004 report by the John Jay College for Criminal Justice found that 4 percent of priests nationwide had a credible accusation made against them between 1950-2002. That is the figure everyone quotes. But the report also notes that roughly half that number were substantiated. If that is a reliable measure, the 300 figure drops to around 150." 

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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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