HARRISBURG, Pa. – Pennsylvania, a bishop with the name in a grand jury report on rampant sexual abuse by Roman Catholic clergy said Friday he has “deep regret” and “sincere apologies” to the victims.
Speaking at a Mass of forgiveness, Harrisburg Bishop Ronald Gainer opened by the reading of the first paragraph of this week is a wonderful report, said that more than 300 predator priests abused more than 1,000 children in six Pennsylvania dioceses. Forty-five of the priests named in the report, and served in the Harrisburg diocese.
The first paragraph of the almost 900-page report said the grand jury knows the truth: that child sexual abuse within the Catholic church happened everywhere.
“In the name of our global church, I voice to you again my sincere sorrow and heartfelt apology to all survivors of clergy sexual abuse,” Gainer said.
Despite the recognition of the church is faced with a “spiritual crisis,” Gainer said most of the abuse happened long ago. The diocese has taken “important and effective measures for the protection of our children and the removal of a person who intends to do harm to them,” he said.
The grand jury report criticized Gainer for the not to call for the defrocking of an abusive priest. The diocese defended Gainer, saying he quickly took action against a priest and another abusive priest, after he was bishop in 2014.
In the beginning of August, the diocese released the names of 71 priests and the other members of the church who were accused of sexual abuse of children and said that the hold accountable all Harrisburg bishops of the last 70 years, the announcement of their names would be stripped of the church properties.
Friday is the Mass drew an unusually large turnout of around 350 faithful. They included Irene Youngman, a retired social worker from Hershey, and her friend, Susan Shebosky, a retired, of Harrisburg, each of them kept a cigar box full of with white ribbons. They are designed to distribute the ribbons as a way to show support for abuse victims.
Youngman said she was so angry when the grand jury report came out Tuesday that she stayed home from Mass that day.
“There is a sense of betrayal. And an anger that I have is that the hierarchy does not respond,” she said. “I hope that they do more than they have already done. Hold the bishops responsible.”
Shebosky encouraged fellow Catholics to speak up.
“Too many Catholics are in our homes, our teeth gnashing about this, and I think that we need to come out in a positive, supportive way, and not let it be brushed aside,” she said.
Steve Ciccocioppo Sr., a retired rail worker from Harrisburg, said the church had suffered a “black eye”, but predicted that it would “resist and stronger.” Ciccocioppo, who said he is a friend of Gainer, expressed confidence in the bishop’s leadership.
“He is deep in turmoil about it, but he is going to put an end to this. The things are in the process of change that need to be changed,” he said.
The grand jury report faulted Gainer over his handling of the case of ds. Joseph Pease, an abusive priest who retired in 2003 after admitting to sexual misconduct with a minor. In 2014 a letter to the Vatican, Gainer said he didn’t want to kick Pease out of the priesthood in total, with the demand that he, instead, lives the rest of his life in prayer and penance, without the additional fear, or suffering to his situation, and without danger to the public knowledge of crimes.”
The report cites another 2014 case, in that Gainer failed to call for the defrocking of a priest who had admitted that he’d sexually abused seven young girls, raping one of them over a period of years. The Rev. James Beeman was suspended from the department since 1991; he died in 2016.
The diocese said in a statement that since the canonical trials were not a viable option against either priest in the time, the Gainer in action came permanent the existing sanctions against each other.
The form letter that Gainer sent in each case “is, unfortunately, not well written and does not accurately represent the action that was taken,” the statement said. “In contrast to the recent attempts to include this picture as a cover-up, this was the only way of solving their canonical status.”
Associated Press writer Michael Rubinkam in northeastern Pennsylvania contributed to this story.
The grand jury report: http://media-downloads.pacourts.us/InterimRedactedReportandResponses.pdf?cb=22148