In a unanimous opinion released Monday, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania supported and explained its earlier decision to hold the publication of a grand jury report detailing years of clergy sexual abuse in the state.
In the five-page June 25 opinion, the court said the request for the stay was made by “many individuals” named in the report, most of whom had cited concerns of due process and reputational rights guaranteed by the state constitution.
“Most, if not all, of the petitioners alleged that they are named or identified in (the grand jury report) in a way that unconstitutionally infringes on their right to reputation and denies them due process based upon the lack of a pre-deprivation hearing and/or an opportunity to be heard by the grand jury,” the opinion states.
The stay, ordered by the court on June 20, indefinitely delays the release of a report that has been more than two years in the making, during which time victims have recounted incidents of past clergy sexual abuse to a Grand Jury.
Legal experts have told local news sources that the depth and breadth of this investigation, which includes six of Pennsylvania’s eight Catholic dioceses, is almost unprecedented among clerical sex abuse investigations that have taken place in the United States.
The two non-participating dioceses in the report, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, have already undergone similar investigations.
Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who has headed the investigation, said in a May 21 statement that he believed dioceses and bishops were behind the push to block or delay the publication of the report.
However, the participating dioceses - Allentown, Erie, Pittsburgh, Greensburg, Harrisburg, and Scranton - and their bishops have all said that they did not apply for the stay, and that they support the publication of the report.
Diocesan officials told CNA last week that they were unaware whether those who had applied for the stay had ties to the Church.
Ed Palattella, a reporter for the Erie Times, wrote that it is believed that those who filed for the stay petition were not diocesan officials, but others who were named in the report.
Because the majority of those named in the report would be priests, it is likely that a group of priests named in the report filed petitions for the stay, though the petitioners have not been named by the Court and all documents pertaining to the proceedings remain sealed.
In their opinion, the Supreme Court said they have not yet seen the full Grand Jury report, and that the stay order would be revisited “when the proceedings before it have advanced to a stage at which either the petitions for review can be resolved, or an informed and fair determination can be made as to whether a continued stay is warranted.”