Pennsylvania Dioceses Say They Won’t Block Report on Clerical Sexual Abuse
May 18, 2018
Several dioceses in Pennsylvania have said they will not try to block a report from a grand jury investigation into clerical sexual abuse in the state.
The Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office is overseeing the grand jury investigation into six of the eight Catholic dioceses in the state: Allentown, Harrisburg, Scranton, Erie, Greensburg and Pittsburgh.
“The Diocese of Allentown continues to cooperate fully with the Office of the Attorney General,” spokesman Matt Kerr said in a statement Thursday. “We will not challenge the release of the grand jury report.”
“The Diocese of Scranton continues to cooperate fully with the grand jury and has informed the Attorney General’s office that it will not challenge the release of the report,” Diocese of Scranton spokesman Bill Genello said on Thursday.
Erie Bishop Lawrence Persico on Wednesday said he wouldn’t try and block the report after meeting with Attorney General Josh Shapiro.
“I realize that the grand jury report will contain information that will be difficult for all of us to hear, but in order for us to focus on the future, we have to have a solid knowledge of the past,” said Persico. “The grand jury investigation and its report will provide a voice for the victims. We must listen to that voice and learn from it as we move forward.”
Shapiro commended the three bishops for declining to mount legal challenges to the report’s release.
“The position of Bishop (Joseph) Bambera of Scranton, Bishop (Alfred) Schlert of Allentown and Bishop Persico of the Erie diocese to not mount any challenge that would silence the voices of victims of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church is the right decision. All dioceses should support victims of sexual abuse in this way,” the attorney general said in a statement.
The Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, and Greensburg dioceses have refused to rule out a legal challenge.
“Each diocese is separate and faces a different situation,” said the Diocese of Harrisburg. “We continue to consider all of our options in law as we move forward.”
The Diocese of Greensburg issued a statement on Thursday saying it “supports the release of the grand jury report,” but with the qualification that such a release should happen “with due process.”
The Diocese of Pittsburg told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: “We can’t comment on anything we haven’t seen.”
The investigation into the six dioceses began after a 2016 report into the Diocese of Altoona-Johnston revealed hundreds of “staggering and sobering” incidents of sexual abuse, along with a history of abuse cover-up in the diocese.
“As wolves disguised as the shepherds themselves-these men stole the innocence of children by sexually preying upon the most innocent and the most vulnerable of our society and of the Catholic faith,” the 2016 report said.
Last week, Shapiro charged Father David Poulson for the sexual assault of two boys while he was working for the Erie diocese.
“Poulson assaulted one of his victims repeatedly in church rectories,” the attorney general Shapiro said when Poulson’s arrest was announced on May 8. “He made that victim go to confession and confess the abuse - to Poulson. This was the ultimate betrayal and manipulation by Poulson. He used the tools of the priesthood to further his abuse.”
The diocese was accused of covering up the case under the administration of Bishop Emeritus Donald W. Trautman.
He issued a statement on May 14 claiming he was “misled,” adding that “others were as well.”
“Even a pope can be misled. Recall Pope Francis’s apology to the bishops of Chile over the sexual abuse of minors. When Pope Francis had all the facts, he made different conclusions,” Trautman said.