Repentance, sadness, shame: US Bishops respond to PA abuse report
Fr Bernd Hagenkord, SJ
Six of the eight dioceses in Pennsylvania were investigated, while the other two have already been the subject of previous investigations. It was prepared by a jury, officially charged under U.S. procedural law in a non-public procedure and with the help of police investigating possible criminal behavior, and initiated by the State Attorney General.
The report is the most comprehensive ever produced by a U.S. government institution on abuse cases. In addition to the names mentioned, the dossier accuses the Church of following its own "script" in covering abuse cases.
It took the Jury two years to complete the 900-page report which examines abuses committed by members of the Catholic Church in the state of Pennsylvania over the last 70 years. One thousand victims have been identified, although the overall number is thought to be higher still.
All eight dioceses in Pennsylvania have responded to the report.
Diocese of Pittsburgh
The Bishop of Pittsburgh, David Zubik, wrote in his statement that nowhere was there any desire to "diminish the pain that has arisen". A statement from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia acknowledged, "It is painful for anyone who reads it, especially for survivors of sexual abuse and their families," and continued, "We are deeply sorry for their pain and remain on the way to healing”.
Diocese of Scranton
In a separate statement, the Diocese of Scranton calls for guarantees to ensure that “no child is a victim of abuse and that no culprit is protected". The same Diocese has published the names of 70 offenders, priests and lay people, including some not mentioned in the Grand Jury report, on its website.
Diocese of Erie
The Diocese of Erie has publicized a list of 72 people, including clergy and lay men and women, credibly accused of actions that would disqualify them from working with youth. These include names of 31 offenders who have since died, and a former bishop. According to the diocesan website, the bishop in question failed to investigate allegations of abuse in his area of competence. The current Bishop of Erie, Lawrence Persico – whose cooperation with the investigation was positively noted by the Grand Jury – has welcomed the report and has written personal letters to each of the abuse victims.
Diocese of Harrisburg
Meanwhile, the Bishop of Harrisburg, Ronald W. Gainer, has said, "We will continue to make amends for the sins of our past and offer prayers and support to all victims of these actions”. "We are committed to continuing and intensifying positive change to ensure that such atrocities never happen again... I want children, parents, parishioners, students, staff, clergy and the public to know that our Churches and schools are safe. There is nothing we take more seriously than the protection of those who enter through our doors”.