Former Priest in Warren Linked to Abuse Probe
April 6, 2018
A former City of Warren Catholic priest is among those named by the Erie Diocese on Friday who are no longer allowed to engage in public ministry.
The diocese listed 51 priests and other employees and volunteers — living and dead — who had been “credibly accused of actions that, in the diocese’s judgment, disqualify that person from working with children,” according to the Friday release, with another three who are currently under investigation by law enforcement.
Fr. Salvatore P. Luzzi, who served as priest at St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church in Warren from 1979 through 1995, is among those named.
Luzzi is currently alive, though his actions to be named by the diocese was not made public.
The diocese held a press conference Friday morning to discuss changes to its Policy for the Protection of Children and Youth. Part of that discussion was the release of the list.
“I want to express sincere sorrow and apologies for the sexual abuse that has occurred within the church, particularly here in the Diocese of Erie,” Bishop Lawrence Persico said. “I have met with victims and listened to the pain they and their loved ones experienced. It is appalling to learn what they went through.”
“We carry the burden of responsibility for the victims who were abused by the very people who were supposed to serve and inspire them,” said Anne-Marie Welsh, diocese director of communications.
“Abuse is traumatic enough, but it’s earth-shattering when it’s perpetrated by someone who is in a position of trust,” Persico said. “I have a profound personal respect for survivors of abuse.”
The accusations against individuals are not listed. The list of actions given by the diocese that are among the “credible accusations” include: use of child pornography, furnishing pornography to minors, corruption of minors, violating a child-protection policy, failure to prevent abuse that they knew to be happening, direct physical sexual abuse or sexual assault of minors.
The diocese established the credibility of individual allegations through several means, according to the release: secular legal proceedings, canon law proceedings, self-admission, or threshold evidence as defined in the diocese’s child protection policy.
“This effort has been an important, long, and complex process taken on by the Diocese of Erie,” Welsh said. “The effort took time because we are committed to doing it correctly and because we are covering a period of decades.”
The diocese was one of six in the state subpoenaed by the Pennsylvania Attorney General in 2016.
“With the help of outside lawyers and investigators, we have reviewed any files we could find that had anything to do with inappropriate behavior by people — both clergy and lay — working for the diocese itself, as well as any Catholic school or agency in the diocese, between 1947 and 2018,” Persico said. “In fact, one case reached back to 1944.”
“We have shared everything we discovered through this investigation with the attorney general and continue to work with his office in this important undertaking,” Persico said. “The investigation provided us with an opportunity to intensify the efforts we had begun making to gain a fuller understanding of our past.”
There are three major new components of the Policy for the Protection of Children and Youth:
? “It has an expanded set of definitions that leave no doubt as to what constitutes abuse. It also includes definitions for terms such as threshold evidence. In addition, it explains what needs to be present for a child abuse case to be considered substantiated.”
? The role of the Office for the Protection of Children and Youth has been greatly expanded.
? The website www.eriercd.org/policyupdate.htm has been updated and revised and contains the new policy in its entirety.
The release of the names of “people who have been credibly accused” is part of the policy.
“In publishing the list of those who have credible allegations against them, the first goal is to protect children,” he said. “This is an important step in helping the public become aware of information that is important for the community’s well-being.”
“We are publishing the names in the hope of helping the victims/survivors move one step closer to healing those same wounds,” Persico said. “It is important they know they are not alone. We encourage victims of sexual abuse by people affiliated with the Catholic Church to come forward for their own benefit and to help us have an even more comprehensive understanding of the past. We are willing to listen to them and accompany them as we all search for the truth.”
“Like anyone else, I cannot comprehend how someone can victimize innocent children and youth,” Persico said. “The vast majority of our priests are striving to live good and holy lives in service to God, to parishioners and to the community at large. The same goes for our many dedicated teachers and agency employees.”
“I am proud to be counted among the priests of this diocese,” he said.