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Greater vigilance may lead to less abuse

The report was as disturbing as it was sad. A grand jury report released Tuesday showed that more than 1,000 children were molested by Roman Catholic priests in Pennsylvania, while senior church officials took steps to cover it up, The Associated Press reported.

The real number of victims was estimated to be much higher due to lost records or because victims were afraid to come forward. More than 300 clergy committed the abuse over decades, according to the report.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said the two-year probe found a systematic cover-up by senior church officials in Pennsylvania and at the Vatican, AP reported.

“The cover-up was sophisticated. And all the while, shockingly, church leadership kept records of the abuse and the cover-up. These documents, from the dioceses’ own ‘Secret Archives,’ formed the backbone of this investigation,” he said at a news conference.

The grand jury concluded that church leaders covered up the abuse to shield the church from bad publicity and financial liability. They also did not report abuse to police and encouraged victims not to report it either, according to the report.

The systematic abuse of children, and the cover-up that followed, should be enough to send those responsible to prison for the rest of their lives. But justice may not come for many victims. Some of the priests identified as abusers are dead. Some of the alleged crimes are now too old to prosecute.

So far, only two priests have been charged with crimes.

These alleged crimes highlight the need for parents to be vigilant when it comes to protecting children, no matter the situation. Who could have imagined that children in the care of priests would be preyed upon? We can all imagine it now, and we can all do something to prevent it from happening again.

Parents should do their due diligence when it comes to leaving children with adults — don’t assume they are holy and righteous just because they have a title. Communities can also do more to protect children. If you know a child is being harmed by anyone, regardless of their position or authority, report it to law enforcement. If more of these criminals feared they would be caught and punished, maybe there would be fewer instances of abuse.