Former Scranton Bishop Barred from Representing Diocese
By Ron Southwick
August 31, 2018
In the wake of the grand jury report on clergy sex abuse, the Diocese of Scranton has acknowledged its former bishop failed in his duty to protect children.
The diocese said Friday that former Bishop James C. Timlin will no longer be allowed to represent the diocese in any public or liturgical events.
Bishop Joseph C. Bambera said in a statement that he is taking the most aggressive step he can pursue relative to another bishop. Bambera also referred the case to the Vatican Congregation of Bishops, which has jurisdiction over other aspects of his ministry.
"It is important that I make this very clear: Bishop Timlin did not abuse children, nor has he ever been accused of having done so. Instead, he mishandled some cases of abuse," Bambera said in a letter released by the diocese.
Timlin "presided over the Diocese of Scranton for nearly 20 years - a time in which the Diocese fell short of its duty to protect children," Bambera continued. "And, in many of the cases detailed in the Grand Jury report, Bishop Timlin fell short, too. While he followed the existing rules and policies when handling most of these cases, there was more he could have done to protect children."
The grand jury report released earlier this month found that 301 priests sexually assaulted more than 1,000 children over a period of decades. Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said church leaders, including bishops, failed victims by covering up the abuse and shielding priests.
The grand jury report found that 59 offenders sexually abused children in the Diocese of Scranton.
Timlin, 91, retired as bishop in 2003.
The grand jury report states that Timlin was aware of priests sexually assaulting children and failed to protect them. In one notorious excerpt, Timlin knew that a priest, Thomas Skotek, raped a young girl and arranged for an abortion after she became pregnant, the report states.
Shapiro singled Timlin out for blistering criticism at a press conference this month, noting that Timlin sent a letter expressing his grief not to the victim but to the priest.
Bambera noted it is unusual for a sitting bishop to launch an investigation of a former bishop. He said that some have asked why he didn't remove Timlin from public ministry earlier.
While noting that Timlin's tenure as bishop ended several years before Bambera became Scranton's bishop, he acknowledged he should have acted sooner. Bambera said that when he became bishop in 2010, he was more concerned about "the need to keep predator priests out of ministry."
"To those who feel I betrayed their trust in me by allowing Bishop Timlin to continue to minister publicly in the Diocese of Scranton since his retirement, I apologize," Bambera said.
Nearly all of the incidents cited in the grand jury report can't be prosecuted because they are beyond the statutes of limitations, Shapiro has said.
Advocates for victims want to abolish the statutes of limitations in criminal cases and allow a window for victims to pursue lawsuits.
The grand jury report examined child sexual abuse in six of Pennsylvania's eight Catholic dioceses: Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, Scranton, Allentown, Erie and Greensburg.