State Representative Proposes Legislation after Grand Jury Report

HARRISBURG, Pa. -- A state representative from Centre County wants the state government to take action following the grand jury report regarding child sex abuse within the Catholic Church.

He introduced legislation on Monday that he hopes will protect Pennsylvania's children.

State Representative Scott Conklin, (D) Centre County, wants to increase the penalty for mandated reporters who fail to report child sex abuse.

He also wants to add religious organizations to the law that covers institutional sexual assault.

The grand jury report regarding child sex abuse within the Catholic Church in Pennsylvania contained the names of more than 300 alleged predator priests suspected of victimizing more than 1,000 children.

"This is by far the most graphic and detailed account of child abuse since the Jerry Sandusky case," Rep. Conklin said.

Conklin's legislation would increase the penalty for mandated reporters who fail to report suspected child abuse. Currently, that crime is a misdemeanor. Conklin's bill would make it a felony.

Conklin would also like to add religious organizations to the law that covers institutional assault. The law currently covers schools, prisons, and child care facilities.

"My legislation is not intended to punish the Catholic Church or any other religious organization. My intent is to ensure the safety of the children and the predators who do these violations have come to justice," Rep. Conklin said.

Newswatch 16 reached out to the Catholic Church. A representative from the Pennsylvania Catholic conference told us the church is devastated and outraged by the grand jury report.

Regarding Representative Conklin's proposed legislation, the conference said, "the time to discuss legislation will come later. Our focus now is on improving ways that survivors and their families can recover as they continue through a difficult healing process."