|Harrisburg Bishop Ronald Gainer - doing too little, too late.|
Roman Catholics in Pennsylvania are bracing for the release of a special grand jury report that is expected to show hundreds of predator priest preyed on children and youths for decades in numerous parishes with the knowledge of bishops in six dioceses who looked the other way or sought to cover up the sexual abuse. The report will likely hit like the bombshell that ignited in Boston in 2002 and will reflect a pattern seen across the globe in diocese after diocese in country after country. As a preemptive measure, the current bishop of Harrisburg has order the names of former bishops removed form church building. Yet the same bishop worked to prevent the reports release and to block any extension of the statute of imitations for victims to bring lawsuits against abusers and/or the church. Sadly, its the typical crocodile tears so prevalent up and down the Church hierarchy. Here are highlights from the New York Times on the coming revelation:
Anticipating the release of a Pennsylvania grand jury report exposing decades of mishandled sexual abuse cases in the Roman Catholic Church, the bishop of Harrisburg on Wednesday ordered that the names of former bishops dating to the 1940s be stripped from church buildings.
This was the first time a bishop has conducted such a sweeping purge of his predecessors’ legacies, although the names of individual bishops and priests involved in sexual abuse scandals have been excised from church buildings in other dioceses.
Harrisburg is among six dioceses in a heavily Catholic region of Pennsylvania that are bracing for the release of what is expected to be a devastating grand jury report exposing more than 300 priests accused of sexual abuse over seven decades, as well as the bishops who failed to remove them from the ministry. The Harrisburg and Greensburg dioceses had tried last year to end the grand jury’s investigation, according to court records reported by The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
The bishop of Harrisburg, Ronald W. Gainer, also published on Wednesday a list of 71 clergy members, seminarians and church personnel accused of sexual abuse of children since the 1940s and said their names would be removed from church buildings, schools and halls.
The move comes as Catholics in the United States have been reeling from a new wave of accusations that have brought down an American cardinal and revealed possible cover-ups at the church’s highest levels. Church officials knew for decades about allegations that the former cardinal, Theodore McCarrick, had sexually molested young men training to be priests in New Jersey, but they failed to take action.
With outraged Catholics calling for a Vatican investigation into Archbishop McCarrick, the president of the United States bishops’ conference, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, the archbishop of Galveston-Houston, released a statement on Wednesday saying that the accusations “reveal a grievous moral failure within the church.”
Archbishop McCarrick, who is 88, resigned from the College of Cardinals last week after an additional report that for years he had sexually abused a boy he had known ever since baptizing him as a baby. The archbishop, a globally known figure who had led the Washington archdiocese, is set to face a church trial.
The church, however, has a powerful pull in the statehouse in Harrisburg and has successfully fought off efforts by abuse victims and their advocates to expand the statute of limitations, which would give victims a longer period in which to bring civil or criminal cases.
Bishop Gainer is the president of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, the church’s statewide public policy arm, which has lobbied state lawmakers against expanding the statute of limitations.
The Harrisburg diocese does not know how many places will have the names of bishops or priests removed, a spokesman, Joe Aponick, said. Many parishes have buildings or rooms named after accused priests, he said, and a conference center and a retirement residence for priests are named after former bishops. With his blanket decree, Bishop Gainer did not say how many of his predecessors had been negligent in handling abuse.
Joe Grace, a spokesman for the state attorney general, Josh Shapiro, called the release of the names of accused perpetrators “long past due.” He said that the Harrisburg diocese had previously pushed to end the grand jury investigation. . . . “Their proclamations today only come after intense public pressure and in the face of the imminent release of the grand jury report exposing decades of child abuse and cover-up,” Mr. Grace said.
The grand jury report has been ready for many weeks, but its release was delayed by objections from people who are said to be identified in it. The state Supreme Court decided recently to allow the release of a redacted version of the report. It will cover the dioceses of Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh and Scranton.
Another grand jury report, released in 2016, cataloged the scope of abuse in one small Pennsylvania diocese, that of Altoona-Johnstown, and found that bishops there had failed to notify the police or remove abusers from ministry.