"Secret archives" on clergy abuse were shared with Vatican, Pa. AG says

Last Updated Aug 28, 2018 11:41 AM EDT

In the latest revelation in the sex abuse scandal involving Pennsylvania Catholic clergy, the state's attorney general, who led the investigation, told "CBS This Morning" that the alleged cover-up stretched "all the way up to the Vatican." A bombshell grand jury report released Aug. 14 revealed more than 1,000 children were molested by 301 "predator priests" going back decades in six Pennsylvania dioceses.

"There are specific examples where when the abuse occurred, the priests would go, the bishops would go and lie to parishioners, lie to law enforcement, lie to the public, but then document all of the abuse in secret archives that they would share oftentimes with the Vatican. There are specific examples where the Vatican knew of this abuse and they were involved in the cover-up," Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said Tuesday.

Asked whether that included the pope, Shapiro wouldn't say.

"I can tell you that there is facts, there is evidence that takes this cover-up and what occurred in Pennsylvania directly to the Vatican," he repeated.  

Shapiro said his office's clergy abuse hotline has been inundated with calls.

"We've received, as of late last night, 733 calls to our clergy abuse hotline in just the nearly two weeks since this report came out," Shapiro said. "I want every single survivor out there to know… if they call our hotline, we will listen and we will track down the truth."

The grand jury report cited 99 priests from the Pittsburgh diocese alone. Cardinal Donald Wuerl, former bishop of Pittsburgh who now leads the Washington, D.C., archdiocese, is under scrutiny for how he handled more than two dozen abuse cases. He told CBS News correspondent Nikki Battiste a day before the report's release, "If there were allegations, we dealt with them immediately." He said allegations that he and others were conspiring to cover up the abuse is "totally false." CBS News reached out to Wuerl's representatives after the report's release, and they said he stands by those comments. 

"I believe that statements made by bishops in Pennsylvania, by Cardinal Wuerl specifically, to deny this does further the cover-up. It covers up the cover-up," Shapiro said, adding that the church has documents to prove this.

Meanwhile, the current Bishop David Zubik of the Pittsburgh diocese said in a statement: "The church of Pittsburgh today is not the church that's described in the grand jury report." Shapiro said he had two responses to Zubik.

"Number one, he's not telling the truth. And the church's own documents prove that. And second… child rape in 1970 is the same as child rape in 2018! It is unacceptable," Shapiro said. "And the idea that the bishop would just simply say, 'Oh, well, this was a long time ago,' is demonstrably false and it is absolutely the wrong response to this." 

Shapiro wants to see the grand jury recommendations passed, including eliminating the criminal statute of limitations for child sex abuse victims.

"Right now we're limited in that time frame. About 40 other states have already done away with the statute of limitations. We should do that. We should give victims the opportunity, as the grand jury calls for, to go and get aid to help them with their counseling. These grand jury recommendations need to pass, and I'm putting every ounce of my being, the survivors are putting every ounce of their being to seeing it passed in Pennsylvania," Shapiro said.   

Other recommendations include creating a two-year window for victims to sue who couldn't file before and clarifying penalties for failing to report child abuse.

In a statement, the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference told CBS News: "We are devastated and outraged by the revelations of terrible sexual abuse crimes committed in the Catholic Church. The time to discuss legislation will come later. Our focus now is on improving ways that survivors and their families can recover."

In response to Shapiro's claims, the Vatican told CBS News: "If the prosecutor is referring to something outside the report, we'll have to wait for that."