HARRISBURG, Pa. – A lengthy report into allegations of sexual abuse and related cover-ups within Pennsylvania's Roman Catholic churches remained on hold Monday, as the state's highest court gave those who wanted to keep the grand jury report under wraps three days to weigh in.
The state Supreme Court, through its filing office, told lawyers for those who have pending appellate challenges to the report's release that they will have until Thursday afternoon to respond to a request to unseal it by The Associated Press and six other media organizations.
The media organizations on Friday asked to intervene and make the argument to the Supreme Court that the report should be released. They said those who wanted to respond to the report itself had apparently already been given such an opportunity by the judge who supervised the investigative grand jury.
The letter from the court prothonotary's office told lawyers a response to the news organizations' argument was not required, but if they did want to submit something, their clients would be referred to as "Anonymous A, Anonymous B, etc., or something similar." An online docket established for the media groups' request did not list the attorneys challenging the release.
Also Monday, the state attorney general's office took a legal action, seeking to lift the high court's stay. It was filed under seal, and details were not made public.
The Supreme Court on June 20 held up the report's release , following up with an opinion last week that said their action was prompted by challenges to the release made by "many individuals" named in the document.
Attorney General Josh Shapiro said Friday he would push to make the report public, arguing people have the right to read it, to know who tried to block its release and to hear the stories of victims.
Shapiro's office spent two years investigating abuse claims at six of the state's Roman Catholic dioceses — Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh and Scranton.
On June 5, the jurist who supervised the investigative grand jury, Cambria County Judge Norman Krumenacker, issued an 11-page decision that said the report should be made public.
Krumenacker described the investigation as involving allegations of child sexual abuse, failure to report it, endangering the welfare of children and obstruction of justice by people "associated with the Roman Catholic Church, local public officials and community leaders."
State prosecutors had hoped to release the report by the end of June.
The media groups argued state law dictates that the grand jury reports should be released because Krumenacker has ordered it. They said that if the justices need more time to take up the challenges to the release a version should be made public with the disputed material redacted. Dockets and filings associated with challenges to the release should also be made public, the media groups argued, redacted if necessary.
Along with the AP, the media organizations also include LNP Media Group in Lancaster; Philadelphia Media Network, which publishes The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News; NBC Philadelphia affiliate WCAU-TV: PG Publishing Co., which publishes the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; Telemundo Mid-Atlantic and Philadelphia public broadcaster WHYY Inc.