Skip to Content

Failing to Report Child Abuse Can be Prosecuted as a Felony

Failing to Report Child Abuse Can be Prosecuted as a Felony


A Pittsburgh Catholic church leader has been sentenced to between 3 to 6 years in prison for child endangerment, after he was convicted of failing to report or stop sexual abuse of children by numerous priests.

Pittsburgh criminal defense lawyers know that not all child abuse cases involve the actual individuals who perpetuated the abuse.

Under Pa.C.S. 21.501 and Pa.C.S. 21.502, certain people are required to report abuse of children, and failure to do so is a crime. These statutes primarily apply to certain professionals, such as: nurses, LPNs, CRNPs, as well as doctors and teachers.

Abuse is defined as any non-accidental physical harm, neglect or sexual exploitation. For these individuals, a willful failure to report is not only likely to result in disciplinary action by the professional board, but also a third-degree misdemeanor.

The key word here is "willful."

Many people find themselves in situations where they may have an inkling of abuse, but aren't sure and fear that to report such an incident without adequate proof could result in severe sanctions for the accused.

There is no doubt that these professionals likely don't want to see children harmed, but at the same time, they don't want to ruin the parent or adult's life on a hunch.

The case involving the church leader was somewhat different. First, he was convicted not of failing to report but of child endangerment. As a third-degree felony, it's punishable by between 3.5 and 7 years. It's a noteworthy case because it's the first time a Catholic official accused of enabling sexually abusive priests has been convicted of a crime. The monsignor is accused of moving accused priests to different churches in order to stifle allegations of misconduct or abuse.

The official contended he tried to do the right thing to protect children, but contended that his judgement was misguided.

There is no question that the conviction in this case will lead to other similar trials, both with regard to the church and elsewhere.