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story.lead_photo.caption In this March 14, 2016, file photo, Pennsylvania state Rep. Mark Rozzi, D-Berks, speaks during a child sex abuse statute of limitations rally attended by advocates, legislators, victims and state Attorney General Kathleen Kane, in white, in the rotunda of the state Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa. Rozzi later testified about his own experience of abuse by a priest in the Allentown diocese as part of a Pennsylvania grand jury's probe into the handling of sexual abuse claims by Roman Catholic dioceses in Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh and Scranton, and the grand jury's findings could be made public nearly two years after the investigation began in July 2016. (Dan Gleiter/PennLive.com via AP, File)

PHILADELPHIA -- The results of a lengthy probe into the handling of sexual abuse claims by Roman Catholic dioceses throughout Pennsylvania, which victim advocates say will be the biggest and most exhaustive ever by a U.S. state, are set to be made public within weeks.

A statewide grand jury spent nearly two years looking into the abuse scandal, and Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro has said he plans to address the panel's findings by the end of June.

The grand jury investigated six of the state's eight dioceses, which collectively minister to more than 1.7 million Catholics. The report is expected to reveal details of widespread abuse and efforts to conceal and protect abusive priests.

A judge's ruling last week gave the first real details of an investigation that started in July 2016. Judge Norman Krumenacker rejected an effort to delay the report's release or allow people named in the report to challenge parts of it before its release.

Krumenacker, a Cambria County judge who has been overseeing the grand jury, wrote in his opinion that the investigative body had heard from dozens of witnesses and reviewed over a half-million pages of internal documents from diocesan archives. The investigation involved allegations of child sexual abuse, failure of church structures to report it to law enforcement, and obstruction of justice by people "associated with the Roman Catholic Church, local public officials and community leaders," he said.

Two priests have been arrested on child sexual abuse charges as a result of the probe, one each in the Erie and Greensburg dioceses. Prosecutors have said one of those priests assaulted a boy more than 20 times as he was serving as an altar boy and would later require the boy to confess the abuse to him.

The overall investigation involves the dioceses of Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh and Scranton.

It is unclear whether there will be any other charges filed as a result of the report, because of Pennsylvania's statute of limitations on child sexual abuse crimes.

Under state law, criminal charges can be filed up to the time the person making the claim of child sexual abuse is 50 years old. Civil claims can be filed for child sexual abuse until the person alleging the abuse turns 30.

Previously released grand jury reports on the other two Pennsylvania dioceses -- Philadelphia and Altoona-Johnstown-- advocated a two-year window to allow people alleging long-ago abuse to pursue civil claims. Efforts to pass that legislation have stalled or been blocked.

State Rep. Mark Rozzi, who put forward the legislation, said he testified about his own experience of abuse at the hands of a priest in the Allentown diocese. Rozzi said he plans to reintroduce legislation to extend the statute of limitations.

Once that first statewide grand jury report was released, Rozzi said, the attorney general's office was overrun with phone calls from people alleging abuse by clergy or by teachers at religious schools.

"We demanded that they look into the remaining dioceses at this point. If you think it's going on here and here, then you know. ... It's happening in the remaining dioceses," he said.

A Section on 06/11/2018

Print Headline: Pennsylvanians await report on priest abuse

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