February 06, 2005

Clergy sex abuse inquiry labors on

Philadelphia Inquirer

By Nancy Phillips
Inquirer Staff Writer

Hundreds of witnesses have been interviewed. A cardinal's words and deeds have come under scrutiny; even his appointment books are of interest. Behind the closed doors of a Philadelphia grand-jury room, tears have flowed.

But after nearly three years, the nation's longest-running investigation of sex abuse by Catholic clergy has yielded but a single arrest. And some victims have become frustrated by the probe's secrecy and its lumbering pace.

When she launched the inquiry at the height of the abuse scandal, District Attorney Lynne M. Abraham vowed to root out abuses by Philadelphia clergy, living or dead. That was in April 2002.

"It's been three years, and the victims want to know what's going on," said James P. Dolan of South Philadelphia, who told investigators that his parish priest abused him as a teenager. "I want to know what's going on behind those doors."

People familiar with the investigation say the grand jury toils on, with new documents or testimony each week, and prosecutors considering criminal charges.

Any decision on whether to file charges will fall to Abraham, who declined to comment last week, citing grand-jury secrecy rules and a gag order imposed by the judge.

Posted by kshaw at February 6, 2005 05:36 AM