More than 1,000 children were victims of priest abuse, according to grand jury report

Cardinal Donald Wuerl, who was accused in the report of allegedly concealing abuse, said in a statement he "acted with diligence, with concern for the victims and to prevent future acts of abuse."
7:01 | 08/15/18

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Transcript for More than 1,000 children were victims of priest abuse, according to grand jury report
I was groomed. Starting young. So he would always have his hands on me. Reporter: These are just a few of the alleged victims of horrific sexual abuse at the hands of priests in Pennsylvania. Who would have believed me? A priest? In 1948 or '47? Would abuse you? Or do that? No. Never heard of such a thing. Because they covered it up. Reporter: Survivors who shared their stories on video and with a Pennsylvania grand jury, which spent the past two years investigating the child sexual abuse scandal in six diocese going back decades. 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. For decades. Reporter: Today, surrounded by tearful victims, Pennsylvania's attorney general released the grand jury's long-awaited report. Over 1,300 blistering pages. Perhaps the most detailed and disturbing account to date of the sexual abuse scandal in the Roman catholic church here in the United States. Predators in every diocese. Weaponized the catholic faith and used it as a tool of their abuse. Reporter: More than 1,000 victims in all, more than 300 priests singled out by name, and dozens of high church officials accused of covering it all up. And this is just one state. Oceans of secrets were unveiled today in a time capsule with this grand jury report being released in Pennsylvania. Reporter: One priest in Harrisburg, father Augustin Michael gallella allegedly targeted five of eight sisters in one family during the 1980s. A catholic schoolteacher reported the priest after hearing disturbing allegations, but church officials dealt with the matter quietly. Gallella retired voluntarily in 1988 and continued to molest girls into the 1990s, a common pattern in so many cases, the report says. The cover-up was sophisticated. And all the while, church leadership kept records of the abuse. Reporter: In this case the official in charge was cardinal William Koehler, who when he died in 2017 was held up as a champion for sexual abuse victims. But the report finds Koehler covered up for gallella, a common pattern. Predator priests were allowed to remain in ministry for 10, 20, 40 years after church leaders learned of their crimes. In those years their list of victims got longer and longer. Reporter: The report called out Washington, D.C. Cardinal Donald world, former bishop of Pittsburgh. According to the report there were multiple cases in which he informed the Vatican but allowed no offenders to quietly transfer rather than face charges. If there were allegations, we dealt with them immediately. Reporter: He disagrees with some of the findings and defended his record on CBS. We're very, very sorry this happened, and that's why we've taken the steps to see that it doesn't go on. Reporter: The report comes amid a new wave of allegations in the church abuse scandal. Earlier this summer world's predecessor, former Washington, D.C. Cardinal Theodore Mccarrick, became the highest-ranking U.S. Church official to resign in disgrace following allegations that he sexually molested sell fairians decades ago. The story of clerical sexual abuse is not new. But even more than a decade after the "Boston globe's" pulitzer prize-winning expose chronicled in the oscar-winning movie "Spotlight" -- I pull out the 14 most damning docs and attach them to my motion and they prove everything. About the church, about bishops, about law. Reporter: His character is one of the attorneys who represented the Boston victims. What is being reported in Pennsylvania right now is unfortunately the tip of the iceberg. There will be a lot of victims coming forward in the future. Reporter: Father Boniface ramsay is one of the whistle blowers who reported Mccarrick's behavior in a letter years ago to pope John Paul's ambassador in Washington. I sent the letter and never heard a thing. That was it. I know my letter was received, I sent it registered mail and everything. But I never got a reply, an acknowledgement. I never got an acknowledgement. Reporter: Last month the Vatican removed Mccarrick from public ministry. Pope Francis accepted his resignation from the college of cardinals and ordered him to observe a life of prayer and penance in seclusion. Mccarrick obeyed but said, I have absolute no recollection of this reported abuse and believe in my innocence." Today the Pennsylvania diocese covered by the grand jury report each issued statements acknowledging it and apologizing. And in my own name, and in the name of my predecessors, we are sorry. I am sorry. Reporter: The bishop of Pittsburgh went on camera. There were instances in the past as outlined in this report when the church acted in ways that did not respond effectively to victims the bishop went on to note the church has since implemented reforms designed to prevent anything like this from happening again. Attorney Mitch garabidean doesn't buy it. The church is trying to take a more public relations approach of, oh, we're sorry, we really feel bad for the victims, we failed children, yet they haven't put any safeguards in place. Almost every instance of child sexual abuse we found is too old to be prosecuted. But not every instance. Reporter: He did offer victims some comfort. This grand jury report is justice. Reporter: Survivors Mike Mcdonnell, who was at today's press conference, says it's a start. Some of the survivors shared with me that they felt like they were going to a funeral today. A funeral of their old self. Reporter: But he believes sexual abuse in the church is ongoing. I believe that the cover-up still exists. Reporter: For the church, the challenge now is to regain people's trust. As I walk the streets in my Roman collar, I feel pretty strongly that people are aware and making judgments in their minds about me. Really? I do, I do, yeah. Even if they don't know you, they judge you by the collar and -- Very much, yeah. I've had people spit at me. I've had people give me the finger. Reporter: The church now seeking forgiveness from the mortal sin of harming so many children. I'm David Wright for "Nightline" in New York.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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