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Grand jury: Catholic Church protected more than 300 'predator priests' who preyed on children in Pa.

A Pennsylvania grand jury released a damning report that detailed decades of sexual child abuse and cover up by leaders in the Catholic Church. (Don Murray/Getty Images)

The leaders of six Roman Catholic dioceses protected more than 300 "predator priests" who sexually abused children for decades across the state of Pennsylvania, according to a grand jury report issued Tuesday.

"Priests were raping little boys and girls and the men of God who were responsible for them not only did nothing: They hid it all,” the report reads.

Two years and 884 pages later, the Pennsylvania grand jury released its report that examined more than 60 years of sexual child abuse, cover-ups, and more than 1,000 identifiable victims, KDKA-TV reported.

The redacted report details the claims of abuse and the strategies used to hide the accusations and protect the predators:

The main thing was not to help children, but to avoid "scandal." That is not our word, but theirs; it appears over and over again in the documents we recovered. Abuse complaints were kept locked up in a "secret archive." That is not our word, but theirs; the church's Code of Canon Law specifically requires the diocese to maintain such an archive. Only the bishop can have the key.

What else did the report show?

“We, the members of this grand jury, need you to hear this," the report began. "We know some of you have heard some of it before. There have been other reports about child sex abuse within the Catholic Church. But never on this scale. For many of us, those earlier stories happened someplace else, someplace away. Now we know the truth: it happened everywhere."

More than 300 priests, clergy, and lay teachers with credible allegations are cited in the document, according to KDKA.

In Pittsburgh, a group of four priests groomed and violently sexually assaulted young boys, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said during a news conference.

“One boy was forced to stand on a bed in a rectory, strip naked and pose as Christ on the cross for the priests. They took photos of their victim, adding them to a collection of child pornography which they produced and shared on church grounds,” Shapiro said.

The priests marked their victims with gifts.

“To make it easier to target their victims, the priests gave their favored boys gifts – gold crosses to wear as necklaces. The crosses were markings of which boys had been groomed for abuse,” Shapiro said.

Shapiro said his office is not satisfied with the release of the redacted report, KDKA reported. Shapiro said each redaction represents a story of abuse, and he plans to fight to reveal the names currently redacted in the report.

How did the predators get away with this?

The FBI analyzed a large portion of the evidence, which the report refers to as the "playbook for concealing the truth."

Church leaders regularly used practices such as using euphemisms such as "inappropriate contact" or "boundary issues" to describe sexual assaults and never referring to them as "rape."

For "appearance only," accused priests were to be sent to "church-run psychiatric treatment centers."

"Allow these experts to 'diagnose' whether the priest was a pedophile, based largely on the priest's 'self -reports,' and regardless of whether the priest had actually engaged in sexual contact with a child," the report said.

When a priest was removed, the leaders were instructed to never explain why. They could tell parishioners that the priest was on "sick leave" or suffering from "nervous exhaustion."

Among other things, the "predator priests" were to continue receiving housing and living expenses, and they could be transferred to another church.

"Finally and above all, don't tell the police," church leaders were told, the report stated.

You can read the full report here.

What did Cardinal Wuerl say?

Cardinal Donald Wuerl of the Pittsburgh Diocese was considered a leader in formulating policies to protect children, but in the report, his record also comes under fire. Cardinal Wuerl responded to the allegations in a statement:

“As I have made clear throughout my more than 30 years as a bishop, the sexual abuse of children by some members of the Catholic Church is a terrible tragedy, and the Church can never express enough our deep sorrow and contrition for the abuse, and for the failure to respond promptly and completely. While I understand this Report may be critical of some of my actions, I believe the Report confirms that I acted with diligence, with concern for the victims and to prevent future acts of abuse. I sincerely hope that a just assessment of my actions, past and present, and my continuing commitment to the protection of children will dispel any notions otherwise made by this report.”

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