A two-year investigation of sexual abuse of children within six Catholic diocese came to a head on Tuesday, with the release of a report that details decades of abuse, and names 301 priests.
Even in a list filled with hundreds of shocking accusations, several stick out as particularly horrific or extreme cases of leadership turning their heads away from situations.
Here are some examples of these over-the-top cases. A warning, some of the information listed below is extremely graphic.
A 'ring of predatory priests'
During the course of the grand jury investigation, it uncovered a 'ring of predatory priests' within the Diocese of Pittsburgh who "shared intelligence" regarding victims, exchanged the victims amongs themselves and manufactured child pornography. The group included George Zirwas, Francis Pucci, Robert Wolk and Richard Zula, and they used whips, violence and sadism in raping their victims.
One victim, who is identified as "George," was made to get up on a bed. As the priests watched, they asked George to remove his shirt. Drawing on the image of Christ on the cross, they asked George to remove his pants. The priests began taking Polaroid pictures of him.
George said the photos were added to a collection of similar photographs depicting other teenage boys.
The priests, George testified, had a group of favored boys who they would take on trips and give gifts.
"He (Zirwas) had told me they, the priests, would give their boys, their altar boys or their favorite boys these crosses," George testified. "So he gave me a big gold cross to wear."
In the report, the grand jury said, 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."
'A touchy/feely time'
In 2003, a woman notified the Diocese of Harrisburg that she was touched sensually by Rev. George Koychick while at St. Patrick’s in York. A report in Koychick’s Diocesan files revealed that when asked if there was any truth to the allegations, he said, “Yes, it was when I was going through a touchy/feely time in my life.”
In the file, Koychick admits to sensually rubbing multiple young girls, and said he had an attraction to them.
“This is a test of ones faith,” he said in the document. “I have lived in fear for years wondering if anyone would come forward with an allegation.”
Over the years, multiple allegations were rendered against Koychick before he retired. Read more details on those here.
'Highly imaginative minds of pubescent girls'
In October 1965, the Diocese of Harrisburg received a phone call that Rev. Charles Procopio had molested multiple girls in the seventh and eighth grade. The person who made the call said the girls told the principal of the school – Sacred Heart of Jesus in Harrisburg – but nothing happened in response.
The actions include “immodest touches” and making motions simulating intercourse while his body was pressed against a girl.
The diocese sent a memorandum in return, noting that Propocio’s touches were “manifestations of his effusive nature, imprudent but pure on his part.”
He also wrote that the actions were “distorted interpretation in the highly imaginative minds of pubescent girls.”
The diocese allowed Procopio to stay in ministry.
Sexual abuse to daughters and a granddaughter
Multiple diocesan memorandums in September 1994 advised that a family living in Florida, formerly of Lancaster, made sexual molestation allegations against Rev. Guido Miguel Quiroz Reyes, OFM, who had served at the Hispanic Center in Lancaster.
When the family moved to Florida in 1980, they asked Reyes if he wanted to live with them. He did so from 1980 to 1993.
In 1993, the family confronted him, alleging that he sexually abused two girls in the family in the 1970s when they were minors and living in Lancaster. They said the abuse continued when they moved to Florida.
It was also believed he sexually abused a minor granddaughter.
The report does not give details about when the family learned of the abuse.
‘You are a demon-child’
In 2004, a woman reported to the Diocese of Harrisburg that she was abused by Rev. Timothy Sperber in 1979. The victim said she was between 9 and 10 years old, and a student at St. Joan of Arc in Hershey. The girl was not doing well in math, and was sent to Sperber to tutor her.
While meeting with Sperber, he rubbed her hand, had her remove her shirt and fondled her breasts. When her back was to him, he touched her with things believed to be his finger or penis, and she believed he ejaculated on her back. According to the report, “she remembered having to sit all day at school with the stickiness of something on her back.”
When the new school year began, and she didn’t improve her math, she was sent to Sperber again. The victim told the principal that he touched her in weird ways. The principal became angry, scolded the child and said “How dare you make these terrible accusations? You are a demon-child.”
When the victim tried to talk to her mother, she replied, “We’re not going to talk about this. I don’t want anyone thinking that this was our fault.”
Multiple accounts of getting victims pregnant
Throughout the report, there are at least three instances of priests fathering a child with a victim.
- Rev. Salvatore Zangari admitted in 1986 while at St. Luke Institute for evaluation after multiple allegations, Zangari told officials that he was “literally married” for eight or nine years and had fathered a child.
- On Aug. 29, 1988, Bishop James Timlin received a letter from the sister of a high school girl who said Rev. Robert J. Brague had sexual relations with her 17-year-old sister, who became pregnant. Timlin responded days later with a letter saying Brague was removed from office, and to keep things under wraps to not cause further scandal. “What has happened is their responsibility.”
- In 1964, 1965 and 1966, the Diocese of Scranton received letters that Father Joseph D. Flannery had affairs with women, dated a young girl and got her pregnant. The letters were received from a member of the clergy, a parishioner and the mother of the young girl. Nothing was found in the file reflecting an investigation or questioning the priest.
Sex for pay
An allegation was made in 1991 that Father James Armstrong of the Diocese of Pittsburgh gave homeless boys from Pittsburgh drugs, alcohol and money in exchange for sex.
One victim reported he was abused by multiple priests in the course of his life.
The man said that his father was a heroin addict, and his mother a prostitute, and ran away from home at about 14 or 15. In the winter of 1985-1986, the victim said Armstrong would drive him and a “hustler” to a back road and had them do “various violent sex acts like calling him degrading things while he gave them oral sex.” This lasted for a couple of years.
Anthony Machcinski on Twitter: @ChinskiTweets