Cardinals attend the religious mass 'Pro Eligendo Romano Pontifice' at Saint Peter's Basilica in the Vatican, Vatican City, 12 March 2013. The Catholic Church's 115 cardinal electors are taking part in a mass in St. Peter's Basilica on 12 March ahead of entering the conclave for a papal election that observers say has no clear favourite. The Pro Eligendo Romano Pontefice ('For the Election of the Roman Pontiff') mass is presided by Angelo Sodano, the elderly dean of the College of Cardinals, and is also open to non-voting cardinals - those aged more than 80. The next pope will take over a Church beset by infighting, scandal and dwindling support, particularly in the West.
New report details horrific abuse by priests
02:55 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

The Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh has received about 50 new allegations of abuse in the week since a grand jury report was published about sexual abuse by priests, according to the Rev. Nicholas S. Vaskov, executive director of communications for the diocese.

Of the claims processed so far, none involve active clergy, Vaskov tells CNN. He says all the allegations date prior to 1990 and as far back as the 1940s.

“This is consistent with our previous statement that 90 percent of the incidents of abuse in the Diocese of Pittsburgh occurred before 1990,” Vaskov wrote in an email to CNN.

The claims were reported to the diocese through a hotline established by the church and via email. The allegations are new and were made by people who had not previously contacted the diocese, says Vaskov.

None of the new allegations have yet been turned over to prosecutors, according to the district attorney’s office in Allegheny County.

Mike Manko, the spokesman for the district attorney, told CNN he was “not aware of any new referrals.”

Support hotlines have seen a rise in calls

In addition to the dozens of new allegations, reporting hotlines set up for survivors of clerical abuse have also seen a rise.

Since the release of the Pennsylvania grand jury report, the clergy abuse hotline maintained by the office of Attorney General Josh Shapiro has received 485 calls, according to Joe Grace, communications director for the attorney general.

The calls are being returned around the clock, “day and night,” by agents, says Grace. The agent listens to the caller’s claim, gathers facts and then determines if further investigation is appropriate.

According to Grace, a “sizable number” of calls are regarding allegations of child sexual abuse by clergy.

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), an international self-help group for survivors of clerical abuse, has also reported a rise in calls from abuse victims.

Judy Jones, SNAP’s Midwest leader, told CNN calls always spike after news of clerical abuse comes to light. And as heartbreaking as it is, she says, the uncovering of such horrors helps empower other victims to tell their stories.

“I know of many victims who are so excited that this grand jury report came out, because it’s like their stories are not hidden away anymore,” she says. “They are being believed by a grand jury, and they’re starting to be believed by fellow Catholics who are angry that this behavior was being hidden.”

She also says the grand jury report has emboldened more advocates and known survivors to become active in their communities’ responses to the ongoing scandal.

“This isn’t over,” she said.

The new wave of allegations come in the wake of a Pennsylvania grand jury report released August 14 that documented decades of alleged sexual abuse by priests and a system of cover-ups by Church higher-ups. Citing internal documents from six Catholic dioceses – including Pittsburgh – the report showed that more than 300 priests had been credibly accused of sexually abusing more than 1,000 children.

The grand jurors said that “almost every instance of abuse we found is too old to be prosecuted” because of the criminal statute of limitations for these crimes. In the wake of the report, Pennsylvania lawmakers have moved to discuss a bill that would eliminate the time limit for prosecutions.

CNN’s Eric Levenson contributed to this report