Timlinís Case Illustrative

The Times-Tribune
September 4, 2018

Former Scranton Bishop James C. Timlin no longer is authorized by Bishop Joseph C. Bambera to publicly represent the Scranton Diocese. (Times-Tribune File)

Scranton Bishop Joseph C. Bambera made too fine a distinction Friday when he emphasized that former Bishop James C. Timlin, whom he barred from formally representing the diocese, had not personally harmed any children.

As bishop for nearly 20 years and as a diocesan official for years before that, Timlin was aware of and had the capacity to stop the sexual abuse of children by multiple priests. But as detailed by the Aug. 14 statewide investigating grand jury report into such atrocities in six Pennsylvania Catholic dioceses, Timlin proved to be an enabler of abusers rather than a protector of children.

The report detailed, for example, that Timlin sought the reinstatement of and transferred to a different parish a priest who had assaulted and impregnated a teenager and arranged for her abortion.

Bambera, in restricting Timlinís activities and referring his case to the Vatican for review, illustrated a fundamental problem that the church faces as it attempts to not only come to grips with the widespread abuse of children over many decades, but to regain the confidence of disaffected Catholics.

American bishops say that most of the cases involved in the Pennsylvania report and elsewhere are old, and that the church has instituted reforms to protect kids going forward.

But the church is a rigidly hierarchical institution and it is clear, given the global nature of the problem and documented knowledge within the Vatican of the problem, that the Vatican itself has to demonstrate its resolve. Yet, beyond rhetoric, there have been few consequences for prelates in the United States and elsewhere who orchestrated cover-ups, like those in the Pennsylvania report, that facilitated further abuse.

All roads do not lead to Scranton, Erie, Harrisburg, Allentown, Greensburg or Pittsburgh; they lead to Rome. And until the Vatican aggressively weeds out the people responsible for generations of abuse against children, it risks permanently losing the confidence of current and future generations of Catholics.

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