Catholic Bishop Dodges Victims Group's Requests
March 28, 2014
Scranton's Catholic bishop has responded to our recent letter by ignoring three of our four concerns, but pledging to write the Pope about a predator priest. (A copy of the letter is below.)
Scranton Bishop Joseph Bambera dodges our plea that he
–publicly reveal the records that allegedly show that Scranton diocesan officials warned “the appropriate” church staff about Fr. Carlos Urrutigoity,
– launch an independent investigation into who, if anyone, in the Scranton diocese may have ignored or concealed Fr. Urrutigoity's crimes, and
–aggressively reach out – using church bulletins, parish websites and pulpit announcements - to anyone else who may have seen, suspected or suffered Fr. Urrutigoity’s crimes and urge them to call law enforcement.
In addition, Bambera has made one promise: to contact Pope Francis about Fr. Urrutigoity. That's something, but not much. If he follows through, that will be a step forward, but a small one. As we've said before, private letters between church officials about predator priests usually seem to protect no one except the reputations of those involved. And we're not optimistic about this because even if Bambera writes the strongest possible letter to the Pope, we doubt Francis will act. His track record on abuse cases – both as pope and as archbishop – has been and remains dismal.
Finally, we question Bambera's claim that he “will continue to encourage anyone who may have suspected, witnessed or suffered abuse at the hands of Father Urrutigoity or any other cleric to immediately report this crime to law enforcement.” He has two options. He can passively sit back, do little or nothing to find these people and say the right things if or when one of them step forward. Or he can actively reach out – as we've urged him to do - using church bulletins, parish websites and pulpit announcements - to find these people.
Based on the language of his letter, it sounds like Bambera is opting for the timid and passive approach instead of the responsible and aggressive approach. We hope he will prove us wrong.