Josh Shapiro represents one of the two dream sons of every Jewish mother – the lawyer. He actually wanted to become a doctor (dream son number 2), but after his freshman year at the University of Rochester, his plans changed. He graduated magna cum laude with a BA from the Rochester in 1995, and in 2002 received his Juris Doctor degree from Georgetown University. Nowadays he is the Attorney General of Pennsylvania, and as such he has gained international fame for rooting out sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.
“There were all kinds of efforts being led by our opponents within the church, and supporters of the church, really powerful lobbyists and lawyers who would file all kinds of motions […] or take certain steps to either derail our investigation or shut it down,” Shapiro told the NY Times’ Elizabeth Dias in a story that was published on Monday (Meet Josh Shapiro, the Man Behind the Bombshell Investigation of Clergy Sexual Abuse).
Shapiro sent a public letter to Pope Francis, asking him to tell church leaders to stop blocking the release of the findings of his investigation. A few days ago he received a “couple-thousand-word letter from the pope.”
A week and a half ago, Pope Francis published his 2,000 word response, in seven languages, begging forgiveness for the victims’ suffering, and calling for prayer and penitence to atone for the “sins” of the wider church.
However, the pope did not discuss any concrete measures to expose and punish the complicit bishops. Instead, he blamed the traditional Catholic adherence to hierarchical decision-making, which caused the bishops’ failure to address past clergy abuse.
No perp walks in those white robes, mister.
“We acknowledge as an ecclesiastical community that we were not where we should have been, that we did not act in a timely manner realizing the magnitude and gravity of the damage done to so many lives,” the pope wrote. “We showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them.”
Shapiro, 42, an alumnus of Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania (“Everything we learned there centered around tikkun olam,” Shapiro told the Jewish Exponent in 2016), is a longtime member of the Conservative Beth Sholom Congregation in Elkins Park.
“My parents have always been supportive of me,” he told the Exponent. “They were thrilled to see me follow my true passion.”
“While the grand jury named 301 predator priests, they actually got reports on more than 400,” Shapiro told the Times, noting he and his team were “very conservative in how many, and which, predator priests were named.”
Shapiro said he’d been asked, “Was the rate of abuse higher in the Catholic Church than in other institutions during the same time period?” explaining, “Really what people have asked is, why single out the Catholic Church?”
“My record is very clear,” Shapiro responded. “We handled the Penn State case and got convictions on all three senior-level officials, the president and the two vice presidents for covering up the Sandusky crimes. We just arrested a local police chief and a local deputy coroner and county prison guards for covering up sexual abuse, in some cases of minors, in other cases of adult women. We go after these kinds of cover-up and abuse wherever we find it.”
So, yes, there are apparently more sexually abusive Catholic priests than in other denominations.
Inevitably, the Times reporter asked if Shapiro is facing anti-Semitism for being a Jewish man exposing Catholic priests.
“Certainly I’ve experienced anti-Semitism,” he said. “There were a number of statements, emails. I don’t read a lot of my social media, but social media postings like that, that were just clearly anti-Semitic. I frankly don’t pay any of that much mind.”
“If at the end of the day, your response to the grand jury report, which uncovered this type of horrific abuse and cover-up, is to attack me with an anti-Semitic slur, then frankly [it’s you who has an] issue,” he said.