HARRISBURG, Pa. – A Roman Catholic diocese on Wednesday identified 71 priests and the other members of the church who were accused of sexual abuse of children and said that holding accountable the bishops who led the church for the past 70 years, the announcement of their names will be stripped of all ecclesiastical property.
During a press conference to detail the church’s actions, Harrisburg Bishop Ronald Gainer apologized to those who were abused, the Catholic faithful and the community and expressed his ” profound sadness.”
“Many of the victims as children continue to suffer as the survivors of the damages that they have experienced,” said the bishop, who was appointed in 2014.
With the announcement, the Harrisburg Diocese, was the second of six dioceses under investigation by the state to get in front of a in anticipation of the grand jury report on clergy sexual abuse. The Erie Diocese released its own findings on the abuse of priests in April.
The release of the almost 900-page state grand jury report is held by challenges by some of the priests and ex-priests. The state Supreme Court ruled last week a version with a number of names a black-out can be made public early next week. The court said that it is known that more than 300 “predator priests” in the six dioceses.
Gainer said that the Harrisburg Diocese was to make public the names of all the people who are faced with allegations of sexual abuse of children, but that it is not to determine whether they had merit, although some of the people on the list have been convicted. He said that no one on the list is at this time in the ministry.
In a public letter, Gainer said shortcomings in previous studies and tracking made it difficult in many cases to assess the credibility or guilt or even determine the underlying behavior. In a few cases, people who are acquitted of allegations by the diocese or the police were not mentioned.
The Harrisburg list contains 37 priests, three deacons, and six seminarians of the diocese, nine clergy from other dioceses and 16 of the religious communities. Gainer said the behaviour was classified as indecent behavior, inappropriate behavior, such as kissing and inappropriate communication with children.
The majority of the allegations date from the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s, the diocese said.
Gainer said the leadership of the church had failed to protect children by not adequately respond to the allegations of sexual misconduct over the years.
State Rep. Mark Rozzi, a Democrat from the reading area, called the decision a step in the direction of transparency and urged Gainer and other leaders of the church, in support of the legislation to eliminate the statute of limitations on civil and criminal child abuse cases.
“They have done all this on the heels of the grand jury report comes out. Yet, still, they did it and that part is great,” he said. Rozzi, who was sexually abused by a priest as a boy, supports the legislation about the expiration of the time limits on lawsuits and criminal offences, and to establish a two-year window during which lawsuits from the past abuse could be filed.
The Harrisburg diocese is compiling a list of buildings and other properties named to honor the clergy, and plans to remove the names of anyone accused of abuse, including all the bishops, goes back to 1947.
The church is also waive medical confidentiality, the rights of the diocese obtained, while the reach of the abuse settlements in the course of the years, Gainer said. The number of such settlements and their dollar values were not disclosed.
The church is adopting a series of new procedures to deal with complaints and protect against future abuse, the bishop said.
Each new complaint will immediately be forwarded to local authorities, background checks are performed on people who are working for the church, including volunteers, and all employees are required to participate in a training on recognizing and reporting abuse, the diocese said.
Court documents showed that the treatment of the grand jury report, the work of a two-year investigation, including allegations of obstruction of justice by the people “affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church, local officials and leaders of the community.”
In its report this spring, the Erie Diocese announced that more than 50 priests and lay persons accused of sexual abuse of children.
The other dioceses surveyed in Pittsburgh and Greensburg, in the western part of the state and Allentown and Scranton in the east. They jointly minister of more than 1.7 million Catholics.
Previous studies have found widespread sexual abuse by priests in the state of the two other dioceses, Philadelphia and Altoona-Johnstown.