Ukrainian Catholic bishop pledges cooperation with Pa. abuse probe

By Peter Smith
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
October 16, 2018

A Philadelphia-based Ukrainian Catholic bishop said his jurisdiction will respond to a grand jury subpoena for documents related to the sexual abuse of children — the first indication that another grand jury probe into clergy abuse may be underway in Pennsylvania.

Auxiliary Bishop Andriy Rabiy of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia told Catholic News Service that the church would comply with providing its files at an upcoming Oct. 24 court hearing.

“The archeparchy and I will fully cooperate with the law enforcement agencies,” he said. 

He said the relatively small archeparchy has not had an allegation made against any of its clergy to date. 

The nature of the probe could not be learned in more detail late Monday.

But the announcement fits a pattern. When a statewide grand jury completed an investigation of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Altoona-Johnstown in 2016, a separate grand jury was seated to follow up on more leads and to investigate six other dioceses. The first indication of that probe came when the dioceses acknowledged later in 2016 that they received subpoenas for their files.

That led to the landmark Aug. 14 grand jury report that said more than 300 priests had molested more than 1,000 children in the six dioceses across seven decades.

Grand juries are governed by laws requiring strict secrecy, so the first indication of their existence sometimes comes from those being investigated rather than from law-enforcement officials.

Attorney General Josh Shapiro has not publicly said whether any follow-up grand jury is in the works, but he has said more than 1,000 calls have come in to a hotline since the Aug. 14 release of the report and that leads are being investigated.

The archeparchy is one of several Eastern Catholic eparchies, or dioceses, in the United States. It is separate from the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

It traces its roots to Ukrainian Catholic immigrants. It is in full communion with the pope but uses Byzantine liturgy, similar to that used by Eastern Orthodox.

Because they have their own rites, discipline, bishops, priests and parishes, Eastern Catholic eparchies overlap the geographic boundaries of Roman Catholic dioceses. The Archeparchy of Philadelphia has churches in central and eastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia and the District of Columbia.

Some of those states, including New Jersey and Maryland, have launched their own investigation of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church in the wake of Pennsylvania’s.

The archeparchy is quite small compared to its Roman Catholic counterparts, with 12,846 members, according to the 2017 Official Catholic Directory.

Bishop Rabiy, who is apostolic administrator of the archeparchy following the health-related retirement of its archbishop, issued a letter to the faithful about the issue.

He said the grand jury report exposed real cases of wrongdoing and coverup in the past but said Catholic leaders in Pennsylvania have done much to be more vigilant in preventing and responding to abuse.

“It is not God Who has done this” abuse, he said. “It is the men who, as wolves in sheep clothing, preyed upon those whom God loves. If anything, God is justly angry. So, if God can be angry, we have every right to be angry also.”

He added: “The Church in the United States and, in particular, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, has undertaken significant measures to insure the past not be repeated again.”

Ukrainian Catholic parishes in Western Pennsylvania are in an Ohio-based eparchy separate from the Philadelphia one.

Pittsburgh is also home to a Byzantine Catholic Archeparchy of Pittsburgh, which uses similar liturgy but has its own structure of parishes and clergy. It traces its roots to another Eastern European immigrant group, known as Ruthenians or Carpatho-Rusyns.

There was no indication late Monday that any similar investigation involved the Pittsburgh archeparchy, which also governs churches in several states.



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