Erie bishop calls abuse findings ‘sobering,’ ‘graphic’


July 1, 2018

By Melissa Klaric

Erie – Bishop Lawrence T. Persico sat in front of 23 angry grand jury members in April and apologized.

“I said that I was sorry that they had to sit there and listen for two years to hear all that,” said the Most Rev. Persico, who heads the diocese of Erie. “Well, they were upset. I can understand that. They are trying to get an understanding of what happened.”

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Persico, 10th bishop of the Erie diocese, was the only bishop of the six to testify face-to-face with grand jury members at the hearings.

“All of the bishops who were subpoenaed by the grand jury were given an option – to appear in front of the grand jury, to plead the Fifth (Amendment) or to submit a written statement,” Persico said. “All of us chose to submit a written statement.”

Then, in April, Persico held a press conference announcing an update to the Erie Diocese policy on protecting children. The diocese also released a list of people in the diocese who have been banned from working with children due to credible accusations of misconduct.

This caught the attention of the state Attorney General Josh Shapiro, whose office asked Persico if he would speak to the grand jury.

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Dye, who was assigned to the grand jury hearings into sexual abuse allegations within the Altoona-Johnstown Catholic diocese, questioned Persico in front of the jury for about 20 minutes. Then, the members asked their own questions for roughly 40 minutes. Next, the bishop left the room for a short time, and was called back and questioned by Dye again.

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Although the report is stalled, Persico has read the findings concerning the Erie Diocese and “other sections,” he said.

“I think it will be very sobering,” Persico said. “The report is not sanitized. It’s very graphic.”

The bishop compared it to the Altoona-Johnstown Catholic Diocese report released in February 2016.

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