By Vatican News
The U.S. Justice Department investigation follows a report published by the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office in August, which accuses around 300 priests of having abused at least one thousand children over the last 70 years.
In various communiqués and statements, the Dioceses of Pennsylvania have confirmed their full support for the federal investigation and request for the submission of documentation relating to the abuses. A note published on the Diocese of Allentown website says: “The Diocese will cooperate fully with the request, just as it cooperated fully with the information requests related to the statewide Grand Jury”. The note continues to speak of how “the Diocese sees itself as a partner with law enforcement in its goal to eliminate the abuse of minors wherever it may occur in society”.
Transparency and accountability
Following the publication of the Grand Jury Report, the President of the U.S. Bishops’ Conference, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, published a statement in which he described the abuse crisis as “a moral catastrophe”, and identified one of its root causes as “the failure of episcopal leadership”. He also set out a three-point plan based on investigating, reporting and resolving all future cases. Reiterating requests for forgiveness, the Cardinal renewed the commitment of the Bishops’ Conference to pursue this plan according to “the highest standards of transparency and accountability”.
Reform and vigilance
Commenting on the Pennsylvania Report, the Director of the Vatican Press Office, Greg Burke, said: "Victims should know that the Pope is on their side. Those who have suffered are his priority, and the Church wants to listen to them to root out this tragic horror that destroys the lives of the innocent”. The Holy See, he said, “encourages continued reform and vigilance at all levels of the Catholic Church, to help ensure the protection of minors and vulnerable adults from harm”.
The path of truth
During his visit to Philadelphia in September 2015, Pope Francis met with a group of abuse victims and said: "I promise you that we will follow the path of truth, wherever it may lead. Clergy and bishops will be held accountable when they abuse or fail to protect children”. He continued, saying: “Within our Family of Faith and our human families, the sins and crimes of sexual abuse of children must no longer be held in secret and in shame”.
In a February 2015 letter to the Presidents of the Episcopal Conferences and Conferences of Major Superiors, concerning the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, Pope Francis wrote: "Families need to know that the Church is making every effort to protect their children. They should also know that they have every right to turn to the Church with full confidence, for it is a safe and secure home. Consequently, priority must not be given to any other kind of concern, whatever its nature, such as the desire to avoid scandal, since there is absolutely no place in ministry for those who abuse minors".