U.S. Sen. Bob Casey first called for stronger federal standards for the mandatory reporting of child abuse in 2011, as a scandal raged at Pennsylvania State University about a former assistant football coach who had sexually assaulted children.
That coach, Jerry Sandusky, is serving a prison sentence of 30 to 60 years as another child sexual-abuse scandal has alarmed and angered Pennsylvania.
And Casey is still calling for responsibility, a week after state Attorney General Josh Shapiro released a grand jury report linking 301 priests to allegations of sexual abuse of more than 1,000 children dating back to the 1940s.
"The grand jury report was a chronicle of pure evil. Pure evil. There's no other way to say that," Casey said Friday morning while standing with a group of child-protection advocates. "It was a catalog of crimes committed by adults who preyed on the powerless, children and young people who would have trusted a member of the clergy."
Casey also denounced the "decades of cover-up by powerful people who could have stopped the abuse."
The Vatican has decried the abuse detailed in the report as "criminally and morally reprehensible."
For weeks, the issue has challenged political leaders, and grand jury recommendations to loosen statutes of limitations for past abuse may yet be featured in state legislative races.
Casey's general election opponent, U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, was asked on Aug. 8 by a Pittsburgh television station about the impending release of the grand jury report, which was made public six days later. "It's not a federal issue, so my opinion doesn't really matter very much," said Barletta, a Hazleton Republican.
While it's true that most law enforcement is handled locally, his response provoked scorn from the Pennsylvania Democratic Party, which called him "unfit" to represent the state in the Senate.
Barletta, in a campaign statement issued the day the report was released, said, "As a practicing Catholic, I am heartbroken by the findings in the attorney general's report. Any abuse of children is abhorrent, and those responsible for such actions should be held accountable."
The bill would establish a minimum federal standard for who is required to report child abuse or neglect to law enforcement, while allowing states to establish additional standards for more reporting. That includes members of the clergy, police officers, school personnel, health-care professionals, day-care staff, foster parents, social service agencies, court officials, and camp and after-school program staff.
It also calls for federal grants of $5 million in the first year and then $10 million annually for four years to pay for educational campaigns and training classes on mandatory reporting of such incidents.
Casey noted that Senate Republicans this week agreed to $10 million in state grants for the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act and hoped his proposed legislation would spark similar interest on his fourth try.