Roman Catholic priests in northeastern USA state sexually abused thousands of children over a 70-year period and silenced victims through "the weaponisation of faith", says a report made public by Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro.
The grand jury report released Tuesday says that number comes from records in six Roman Catholic dioceses.
The grand jury report is expected to detail cases of how alleged predator priests were mishandled by Catholic dioceses across Pennsylvania. Documents from the dioceses own secret archives formed the backbone of the investigation corroborating accounts of alleged sexual abuse and systemic church cover-up, mirroring a worldwide pattern where abusers are moved from parish to parish.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro called on the dioceses of Pennsylvania to support four proposals that could help sex abuse victims find justice.
Predator priests in Pennsylvania raped and molested more than 1,000 children over the past seven decades in attacks that were often covered up, according to a stunning grand jury report that a top Boston anti-abuse crusader said is just "the tip of the iceberg".
The grand jury concluded that a succession of Catholic bishops and other diocesan leaders tried to shield the church from bad publicity and financial liability. Before its release, some urged that the report be read keeping in mind that a lot has changed in the church since then, and also that not all of the report's claims are substantiated.
But advocates for victims of clergy sexual abuse criticized Wuerl upon reading the report.
"While I understand this report may be critical of some of my actions, I believe the report confirms that I acted with diligence, with concern for the victims and to prevent future acts of abuse", he said in a statement.
The bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Dallas says the diocese is looking at ways to improve the protection of the families it serves in the wake of the church sex abuse scandal in Pennsylvania.
"Over 1,000 child victims were identified by our investigation, though the grand jury notes that they believe that number was in the thousands", Shapiro said.
But while Tuesday's report led to charges against two priests, one of whom has pleaded guilty, the majority of those responsible are dead and the vast majority of crimes happened too long ago to prosecute, officials said.
Wuerl contended that he acted diligently to protect children while bishop of Pittsburgh for 18 years through 2006.
The Pennsylvania report echoes the findings of many earlier church investigations around the country - and in other Pennsylvania dioceses - in its description of widespread sexual abuse by clergy and church officials' concealment of it.
In almost every case, prosecutors found that the statute of limitations has run out, meaning that criminal charges can not be filed.
James Faluszczak, a victim of abuse from the Erie Diocese who went on to become a priest, fought tears as Shapiro shared the stories of other victims.
"Church officials routinely and purposefully described the abuse as horseplay and wrestling and inappropriate conduct". Many bishops, including future-Cardinal, the late Anthony Bevilaqua, were accused of continuing priests they knew to be risky to children in active ministry.
Twenty-three grand jurors - including practicing Catholics - worked for two years to compile the report based on internal documents surrendered by the six dioceses it investigated and testimony from victims.
The sexual abuse scandal has shaken the Catholic Church for more than 15 years.
Pennsylvania's Supreme Court had agreed to consider claims from priests that the report is inaccurate and releasing it with identifying information would violate their constitutional rights and set oral arguments for the issue in September, according to Shapiro.
The report is thought to be the most comprehensive to date into abuse in the USA church, but while prosecutors have filed charges against two priests, the vast majority of crimes happened too long ago to prosecute under current laws. They wrote that the systematic cover-up allowed for the statute of limitations to expire before victims and law enforcement could hold perpetrators accountable. Clergy members had until last week to seek to have their names redacted from the long-anticipated report. Instead, he wants the church to adopt the reforms recommended by the grand jury, including eliminating a time limit on when victims of abuse can pursue legal action.