Pa. Bishops Made the Right Call on Transparency

Citizen's Voice
May 24, 2018

Scranton Bishop Joseph Bambera and bishops of five other Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania will not attempt to block the impending public release of a statewide grand juryís report on an investigation into sexual abuse among clergy and their diocesesí handling of it.

The grand jury, which met in Pittsburgh and has been investigating since former Attorney General Kathleen Kane launched it in 2016, ended its term in April. Its report could be released in June. It subpoenaed records and interviewed witnesses from all of the dioceses ó Scranton, Erie, Allentown, Harrisburg, Greensburg and Pittsburgh. Investigations of the two other dioceses in the state, Philadelphia and Altoona-Johnstown, were handled individually.

According to state Attorney General Josh Shapiro, Greensburg Bishop Edward Malesic and Harrisburg Bishop Ronald Gainer recently changed their minds about filing legal challenges to the reportís release. The other bishops already had agreed.

The report will not be a purely historical document.

On May 8, based on the grand jury investigation, police arrested the Rev. David Paulson, 64, of Oil City, a priest in the Erie Diocese for 40 years, for allegedly sexually abusing two boys over several years. According to Shapiro, Erie Diocese officials knew of the abuse as early as 2010 but did nothing to stop it until they received a grand jury subpoena in September 2016.

It is remarkable that such a failure could occur nearly two decades after widespread sexual abuse of children within the Boston diocese was revealed, and after the cascade of revelations across the country that followed.

A lack of transparency by church officials enabled the criminals and imperiled the church. The bishops have taken a major step toward resolving the crisis by declining to challenge public disclosure of the independent inquiry.

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