Conklin introduces Catholic Church grand jury report legislation

Measure would protect children by strengthening reporting requirements, penalties

STATE COLLEGE, Aug. 27 – In the aftermath of the shocking Attorney General report regarding child sexual abuse within the Roman Catholic Church, state Rep. Scott Conklin, D-Centre, announced Monday that he has introduced legislation that would protect Pennsylvania’s children by enacting a number of commonsense statutory reforms.

“It is both heartbreaking and infuriating to know that rather than punish the victims’ abusers, the hierarchy of the church swept them aside to protect the sanctity of the church and the credibility of their abusers,” Conklin said. “As children, we are taught to respect our teachers and clergy. However, the individuals identified in the report took advantage of their position as advisors, teachers and spiritual leaders to fulfill their sexual desires while ignoring their vows and pledge to a higher power.”

Specifically, Conklin’s legislation would clarify the reporting requirements and increase the penalty proscribed for mandated reporters who fail to report suspected child abuse. It would also make employees and volunteers of religious organizations explicitly subject to the criminal offense of institutional sexual assault if they engage in sexual intercourse, deviate intercourse or indecent contact with a child.

“My legislation is not intended to punish the Catholic Church or any other organized religion,” Conklin said. “My intent is to ensure that all children – regardless of creed – are safe from perpetrators who would violate the sanctity of a place of worship to fulfill their heinous desires.”

Conklin, the Democratic chairman of the House Children and Youth Committee, said legislators are often told by victims’ advocacy groups that abuse victims suffer in silence. According to the abuse survivors who shared their accounts with the grand jury, high-ranking officials in the church and law enforcement either discredited or ignored their pleas for help, which only added to their grief and suffering.

“While I know I cannot fix the many wrongs perpetrated by the individuals identified in the grand jury report, we can prevent similar situations from arising by punishing those who willfully fail to report sexual abuse and conspire to cover it up,” Conklin said. “I think it is of the utmost importance that we do everything we can to ensure the safety of our children by adopting the grand jury’s recommendation to clarify the duty to report child abuse, while increasing penalties if a mandated reporter fails their obligation.”