The Rayflector

Child Sexual Abuse In Pennsylvania

A brief look into recent cases.

Paige Atkinson, Staff Writer

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Over the years, the Catholic Church officials have been accused of child sexual abuse. In the summer of 2018, another huge amount of abuse cases were uncovered in Pennsylvania.


The history of child sexual abuse by Catholic Church officials has gone on for decades, possibly centuries. The first documented accusations date back to the 1950s, but the first ones given significant coverage didn’t happen until in the 1980s and 1990s. Various countries have had Catholic leaders accused of sexual abuse, such as Argentina, Australia, Austria, Canada, Chile, Ireland, and the USA.

Throughout the more recent history of the church, religious leaders accused have been were moved to different churches, among other situations. In the past, cover-ups of the abuse have gone all the way up to Vatican City, headquarters of the Catholic Church.

In the recent Pennsylvania case, 301 priests were identified as predators and there were more than 1,000 victims in this case. There have been apparent cover-ups of these crimes for approximately 70 years. It came out in the summer of 2018. Violence and strange situations were abundant in these cases.

Priests, as in other cases, were put on sick leave or placed in church-run reform institutions. One such example is one Father Thomas Smith of the Erie Diocese in northwestern Pennsylvania. When he wrote to his bishop, a Mr. Donald Trautman, in July of 1990, he was on his third “health leave,” according to church documents, since being ordained as a priest in 1967. Every such leave happened after the diocese had received reports that Smith had raped children. During stays at the church-run facility he was sent to during each health leave, he told counselors that he’d raped 15 boys, some as young as 7, using threats of violence and justifying actions in God’s name. He had been treated in 1984, 1986, and 1987. According to USA Today, “Smith was in treatment again when he met with Trautman and expressed his desire to return to a parish. In a letter previously, he had described his ‘gifts and accomplishments’ in ‘working with young people.’” Trautman later wrote in a memo that he was impressed with Smith’s “candor and sincerity.” About a year and a half later, Smith returned to church service and became active in a program called Isaiah 43, which is a ministry for Catholic children.

Various cases of priests raping girls and getting them pregnant exist within the Pennylsania case. In one such case, a priest raped a girl, arranged an abortion, and was allowed to continue being a priest. Considering how he broke laws and church morals, it is shocking to see that he was allowed to continue preaching.

During the investigation by the grand jury in the Pennsylvania case, a ‘ring of predatory priests’ were discovered within the Pittsburgh Diocese. The crimes of this ring include sharing intelligence on victims, exchanging of victims among themselves, and manufacturing child pornography. Children who had been raped were given “big golden cross” pins to wear. According to the grand jury report, the crosses were “a designation that these children were victims of sexual abuse. They were a signal to other predators that the children had been desensitized to sexual abuse and were optimal targets for further victimization.”

Other cases include situations such as a priest who abused five sisters in the same family, one of which who had been 18 months the first time the priest had touched her; another priest raped a young girl after she got her tonsils out, while she was still in the hospital; and another priest who tied up and whipped a victim. Another case includes Reverend Charles Procopio, who molested multiple girls in seventh and eighth grade.

When a phone call was received about the events, the diocese replied, noting that Propocio’s touches were “manifestations of his effusive nature, imprudent but pure on his part.” It was also written that the actions were the “distorted interpretation in the highly imaginative minds of pubescent girls.” Yet another case is centered around Reverend Timothy Sperber. He molested a girl who came to math tutoring with him when she was 9 and 10 years old. When the girl came forward to the school’s principal, she was called a “demon child” for making such “terrible accusations.”


As one can see, Catholic officials have faced a lot of accusations of child sexual abuse- and were also accused of cover-ups. The 2018 Pennsylvania case is the most recent example.

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Child Sexual Abuse In Pennsylvania