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Commentary: a crisis regarding the responsibility of church authorities

By Greg Erlandson

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- When Catholic News Service posted a short video of the Pennsylvania attorney general's Aug. 14 news conference announcing a grand jury report on clergy sexual abuse in six dioceses, its editors had to add a warning about the graphic language viewers would hear.

The actual 900-page report chronicling 70 years of child sexual abuse by 301 priests is much, much worse. There are images of rape, perversion and blasphemy that will be hard to excise from a reader's imagination, vile and disgusting acts that have shattered the lives and faith of the more than 1,000 victims and their families.

Harder still is to understand how some leaders could have known about these acts of profound betrayal and not have been enraged into action to excise permanently such evil from our church.

And this goes to the dark heart of this crisis: That men of the cloth would sin so grievously against the most defenseless in their flocks, and that men of the cloth would fail to respond appropriately.

The clergy sexual abuse crisis has been, and remains today, ultimately a crisis regarding the responsibility of church authorities. The profound distrust of institutions -- law, science, education, government -- that permeates our society permeates our church as well. This distrust strikes at the heart of a hierarchical structure -- that those who bear the most responsibility and most power have at times failed us. "Put not your trust in princes," sang the psalmist. Indeed, many Catholics no longer do.

And yet we must not paint all bishops and priests today with the same brush that has tarred some. Many more bishops have met with victims, cried with them, and responded to their needs than in years past. Many more priests speak out forthrightly from their pulpits, addressing the scandals and encouraging those who have been hurt to come forward.

In the wake of the recent revelations involving Pennsylvania, Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick and other allegations that have come to light involving seminaries, there are four take-aways from this horrible new chapter in the life of our church.

First, the bishops today, as descendants of the apostles and descendants of those who previously occupied the positions they hold now, must convincingly demonstrate a spirit of repentance and recommitment. Their people, and society at large, are not looking for more generic apologies and corporate-sounding assessments of current performance. They must act boldly and concretely if their apologies are to be taken seriously.

Their recommitment must involve greater accountability and greater transparency. To do this, they must have the support of the Vatican. This won't be easy. There are many bureaucratic and institutional forces that do not want the sins of the fathers to be exposed and that are blind to the great peril our church is already in.

Second, many are calling for a greater role for the laity in investigations and in future decision-making. It is a tremendously positive development that lay boards have become involved in assessing abuse allegations. Past scandals documented in Pennsylvania so often involved only clergy in investigative and decision-making roles. The church needs lay men and women to be actively involved in the purification and renewal of the church.

There also should be a renewed appreciation for the role of the church's own media in informing and forming Catholics. At least 39 bishops have spoken out about the initial scandal involving Archbishop McCarrick, yet some dioceses no longer have effective communication tools to make sure that their people are hearing the voices of their bishops. Worse still would be if diocesan publications are tempted to avoid publishing news of these scandals, even though their secular counterparts are putting it on the front page. This destroys the credibility of Catholic media and further undermines the leadership of the bishop.

Third, we must acknowledge how much has changed since the scandals that rocked the U.S. church in 2002. The church now is far different from even 16 years ago. Extensive procedures for training young people, for background checks and for reporting violations have been put into place. Victims are much more likely to be treated with sympathy and their reports taken seriously. Since the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People was implemented in 2002, it is estimated that the church has spent $4.4 billion on these procedures as well as on payouts to victims and their attorneys. No other social institution even comes close to this level of commitment.

Which brings us to the fourth point. Solving the problem of sexual abuse and accountability in the church will not solve the problems of sexual abuse and accountability in society. There are an estimated 60,000 cases of child abuse in the United States each year. Multiplied over a span of 70 years, this number would be horrifying.

Abuse in the larger society is no excuse for the 301 priests (about 5 percent all priests who served in those dioceses over a period of 70 years) who are guilty of abusing at least 1,000 victims. Yet if any good is to come out of this long tragedy, it may be that the church -- humiliated and scorned as it now is -- may be able at some point to contribute to a much greater healing that needs to take place in our country and our world.

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Erlandson is director and editor-in-chief of Catholic News Service.

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Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Catholics express despair, disbelief, anger at new abuse revelations

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By Mark Pattison

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- After the first allegations of abuse against Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick were publicized in mid-June, employees at the U.S. bishops' conference headquarters in Washington were bracing for calls from Catholics confused, outraged or anything in between regarding the emerging scandal.

The big surprise: More Catholics were calling in -- and kept calling -- to ask how they could be foster parents to immigrant children who had been separated from their parents by the U.S. government at the U.S.-Mexico border.

That didn't last long, though.

The foster-parent calls receded and the abuse-related phone calls picked up in volume and intensity, according to Deacon Bernie Nojadera, executive director of the Secretariat for the Protection of Children and Young People at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Deacon Nojadera said he doesn't know exactly why people call his office. He suggested it may be that callers expect that the office can issue reprimands to any suspected cleric: "What are you going to do about it?"

But that's not the case, he told Catholic News Service in an Aug. 13 interview. Priests accused of abuse are subject to the discipline of their diocesan bishop or religious superior; if found guilty of misconduct, priests may be laicized by the Vatican. Accused bishops, though, are subject first to the Vatican.

Parents who call sound worried, the deacon added: "How do I know my child's going to be safe if he's in formation or if he's in seminary?"

The three most notable cases this summer involve Archbishop McCarrick, who is facing a credible allegation of abusing a minor and is believed to have harassed and abused seminarians even after they were ordained to the priesthood; the Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska, where a vocations director who died in 2008 has recently been accused of harassment; and the Archdiocese of Boston, where Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley ordered an investigation of the archdiocesan seminary after abuse reports surfaced in early August.

"Our first job is to listen, to be empathetic," Deacon Nojadera said. Some of the callers, he acknowledged, are angry. "Well, I'm angry, too," he told CNS. Without prayer, he added, "I can't do what I'm doing,"

Both the National Review Board and the bishops' Committee on the Protection of Children and Young People are scheduled to meet in September. Deacon Nojadera said his office hopes to be able to give each body guidance on strengthening the "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People," approved by the bishops in 2002.

"In 2002, we were responding to a very specific situation: the abuse of children by priests," Deacon Nojadera said. "I still hold it's a very good document. It's better than nothing. It has its strengths, it has its weaknesses." He added, "We need to have a very serous discussion on what we can do to improve what's mandated by the charter."

The charter, amended in 2011 and again earlier this year. did not take into account the possibility that bishops could be abusers, or that abuse victims could be adults, much less seminarians and priests whose path to -- and following -- ordination could be stymied by bishop-abusers.

The increased call volume experienced by Deacon Nojadera and his staff has not been experienced in two dioceses contacted by CNS.

"We've all spent time processing among staff and clergy, because this is another level of concern and another level of distress for all Catholics," said Beth Heidt Kozisek, victim assistance coordinator for the Diocese of Grand Island, Nebraska, in a phone interview with CNS. "But we really haven't had an increase in the number of calls from parishioners or general members of the community."

The allegations against Archbishop McCarrick, a former cardinal, weren't published in either the Omaha World-Herald, Nebraska's largest newspaper, or the local daily, The Grand Island Independent, Kozisek said. "I found it online but I didn't see any comments online," she added. "Is that a sign of our rural culture -- nobody's reading the news? They're busy farming and other activities?"

"Baton Rouge has not experienced an increase in allegations or calls in the last month due to the Cardinal McCarrick story," said an email to CNS from Amy Cordon, victim assistance coordinator for the Diocese of Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

"My colleagues and I do not see our ministry to victims of clergy abuse as a job. We are ministers," Cordon said of herself and her fellow victim assistance coordinators. "And our boss, Jesus Christ, never disappoints.

"This is why you are not seeing a mass exodus of victim assistance coordinators when these stories continue to break 10-plus years after the charter was written," she added. "Most of us work under truly holy men of God and are very fortunate to have good bishops who care for those who have been harmed. I can certainly say that is the case in Baton Rouge."

Deacon Nojadera recalled the instance of one caller, who had worked with the resigned cardinal, first weeping with anguish over the phone and then voicing anger over the situation. "First, I have to listen," he said.

But the moment, he said, may signify the need for "a spiritual cleansing in the church."

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Follow Pattison on Twitter: @MeMarkPattison

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Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Update: Report details rape of children, culture of secrecy that fanned it

IMAGE: CNS photo/Reuters video

By Rhina Guidos

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The report begins dramatically, imploring its readers: "We, the members of this grand jury, need you to hear this."

Plain and simple, at least 1,000 children identified in the investigation were raped in Catholic places of worship, in schools, and in diocesan owned vehicles, and were "groomed" through diocesan programs and retreats so they could be molested, wrote members of a 23-person grand jury who heard those accounts over a period of almost two years of an investigation of clergy sex abuse said to have taken place in six dioceses in the state of Pennsylvania over 70 years. Their findings were unveiled Aug. 14.

In almost 1,400 pages, they describe graphic accounts of the abuse they say happened in the Catholic dioceses of Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, Allentown, Scranton, Greensburg and Erie.

They detail accounts they heard of boys and girls whose genitals were touched, who were raped or made to perform a variety of sex acts. The report says one priest molested five girls in a family. In some cases the report details, girls became pregnant after being raped. One priest was "rendered irregular" after helping arrange an abortion for a minor he impregnated and mentions a letter that followed from church officials that "seemed to exclusively address the procurement of the abortion with little concern that (the priest) had impregnated a child."

Some cases were worse than others, the report said, when detailing a case involving a boy who was given holy water by a priest to wash out his mouth after he had the boy perform a sex act. Most of the children were teens and some were preteens, according to the report.   

What is depicted comes from internal documents made available by dioceses, from testimony of those who offered it, "and, on over a dozen occasions, the priests themselves appeared before us. Most of them admitted what they had done," the report says.

When the children or their families reported what happened, "all of them were brushed aside, in every part of the state, by church leaders who preferred to protect the abusers and their institution above all," the report says.

"The bishops weren't just aware of what was going on; they were immersed in it. And they went to great lengths to keep it secret. The secrecy helped spread the disease," the report said.

Most of the crimes are too old to be prosecuted, but "for many of the victims, this report is justice," said Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro in an Aug. 14 news conference unveiling the report, as some of those who had testified for the grand jury attended.

"We're going to shine a light," Shapiro added. "We can tell our citizens what happened."

The report says that it recognizes that "much has changed over the last 15 years."

Grand jury members said they heard reports from the six dioceses investigated, "so that they could inform us about recent developments in their jurisdictions."

"In response, five of the bishops submitted statements to us, and the sixth, the bishop of Erie, appeared before us in person. His testimony impressed us as forthright and heartfelt," they wrote. "It appears that the church is now advising law enforcement of abuse reports more promptly. Internal review processes have been established. Victims are no longer quite so invisible. But the full picture is not yet clear."

Even though the report is long and its details painful, knowing what happened is "the only way to fix these problems," they write.

The report recommends that the Pennsylvania Legislature drop the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse. They also ask for a "civil window" law that would let older victims sue the dioceses "for the damage inflicted on their lives when they were kids." It says better laws for "mandated reporting of abuse" are needed and say confidentiality agreement or non-disclosure agreements should not apply when it comes to criminal investigations.

The grand jury said it keeps in mind that there are likely more than 1,000 victims identified and likely more offending priests it does not know about. It identified 301 priests in the report.

"What we can say, though, is that despite some institutional reform, individual leaders of the church have largely escaped public accountability," the report says. "Priests were raping little boys and girls, and the men of God who were responsible for them not only did nothing; they hid it all. For decades, monsignors, auxiliary bishops, bishops, archbishops, cardinals have mostly been protected; many, including some named in this report, have been promoted. Until that changes, we think it is too early to close the book on the Catholic Church sex scandal."

A grand jury does not determine guilt or innocence but whether there may be enough evidence or probable cause to support a criminal charge.

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Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Pope names Venezuelan prelate to top position in Secretariat of State

On Assumption feast, pope asks consolation for all who suffer

On Assumption feast, pope asks consolation for all who suffer

Mary's assumption into heaven was a special sign of God's favor, but it also indicates God's desire to save all people, body and soul, Pope Francis said.

The post On Assumption feast, pope asks consolation for all who suffer appeared first on Superior Catholic Herald.

Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary - Mass during the Day

Reading 1 Rv 11:19a; 12:1-6a, 10ab

God's temple in heaven was opened,
and the ark of his covenant could be seen in the temple.

A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun,
with the moon under her feet,
and on her head a crown of twelve stars.
She was with child and wailed aloud in pain as she labored to give birth.
Then another sign appeared in the sky;
it was a huge red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns,
and on its heads were seven diadems.
Its tail swept away a third of the stars in the sky
and hurled them down to the earth.
Then the dragon stood before the woman about to give birth,
to devour her child when she gave birth.
She gave birth to a son, a male child,
destined to rule all the nations with an iron rod.
Her child was caught up to God and his throne.
The woman herself fled into the desert
where she had a place prepared by God.

Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:
"Now have salvation and power come,
and the Kingdom of our God
and the authority of his Anointed One."

Responsorial Psalm Ps 45:10, 11, 12, 16

R. (10bc) The queen stands at your right hand, arrayed in gold.
The queen takes her place at your right hand in gold of Ophir.
R. The queen stands at your right hand, arrayed in gold.
Hear, O daughter, and see; turn your ear,
forget your people and your father's house.
R. The queen stands at your right hand, arrayed in gold.
So shall the king desire your beauty;
for he is your lord.
R. The queen stands at your right hand, arrayed in gold.
They are borne in with gladness and joy;
they enter the palace of the king.
R. The queen stands at your right hand, arrayed in gold.

Reading 2 1 Cor 15:20-27

Brothers and sisters:
Christ has been raised from the dead,
the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
For since death came through man,
the resurrection of the dead came also through man.
For just as in Adam all die,
so too in Christ shall all be brought to life,
but each one in proper order:
Christ the firstfruits;
then, at his coming, those who belong to Christ;
then comes the end,
when he hands over the Kingdom to his God and Father,
when he has destroyed every sovereignty
and every authority and power.
For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.
The last enemy to be destroyed is death,
for "he subjected everything under his feet."

Alleluia

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Mary is taken up to heaven;
a chorus of angels exults.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel Lk 1:39-56

Mary set out
and traveled to the hill country in haste
to a town of Judah,
where she entered the house of Zechariah
and greeted Elizabeth.
When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting,
the infant leaped in her womb,
and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit,
cried out in a loud voice and said,
"Blessed are you among women,
and blessed is the fruit of your womb.
And how does this happen to me,
that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears,
the infant in my womb leaped for joy.
Blessed are you who believed
that what was spoken to you by the Lord
would be fulfilled."

And Mary said:

"My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
and has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children forever."

Mary remained with her about three months
and then returned to her home.
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Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine; Psalm refrain © 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved. Neither this work nor any part of it may be reproduced, distributed, performed or displayed in any medium, including electronic or digital, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary - Vigil

Reading 1 1 CHR 15:3-4, 15-16; 16:1-2

David assembled all Israel in Jerusalem to bring the ark of the LORD
to the place which he had prepared for it.
David also called together the sons of Aaron and the Levites.

The Levites bore the ark of God on their shoulders with poles,
as Moses had ordained according to the word of the LORD.

David commanded the chiefs of the Levites
to appoint their kinsmen as chanters,
to play on musical instruments, harps, lyres, and cymbals,
to make a loud sound of rejoicing.

They brought in the ark of God and set it within the tent
which David had pitched for it.
Then they offered up burnt offerings and peace offerings to God.
When David had finished offering up the burnt offerings and peace offerings,
he blessed the people in the name of the LORD.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 132:6-7, 9-10, 13-14

R. (8) Lord, go up to the place of your rest, you and the ark of your holiness.
Behold, we heard of it in Ephrathah;
we found it in the fields of Jaar.
Let us enter his dwelling,
let us worship at his footstool.
R. Lord, go up to the place of your rest, you and the ark of your holiness.
May your priests be clothed with justice;
let your faithful ones shout merrily for joy.
For the sake of David your servant,
reject not the plea of your anointed.
R. Lord, go up to the place of your rest, you and the ark of your holiness.
For the LORD has chosen Zion;
he prefers her for his dwelling.
"Zion is my resting place forever;
in her will I dwell, for I prefer her."
R. Lord, go up to the place of your rest, you and the ark of your holiness.

Reading 2 1 Cor 15:54b-57

Brothers and sisters:
When that which is mortal clothes itself with immortality,
then the word that is written shall come about:

Death is swallowed up in victory.
Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?


The sting of death is sin,
and the power of sin is the law.
But thanks be to God who gives us the victory
through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Alleluia Lk 11:28

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Blessed are they who hear the word of God
and observe it.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel Lk 11:27-28

While Jesus was speaking,
a woman from the crowd called out and said to him,
"Blessed is the womb that carried you
and the breasts at which you nursed."
He replied,
"Rather, blessed are those
who hear the word of God and observe it."
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Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine; Psalm refrain © 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved. Neither this work nor any part of it may be reproduced, distributed, performed or displayed in any medium, including electronic or digital, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Statements from bishops of dioceses named in grand jury abuse report

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy of the dioceses

By

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The following are excerpts of statements, and links to the full statements, made by the bishops of the six Pennsylvania dioceses named in a grand jury report released Aug. 14 that detailed a two-year investigation of seven decades of clergy sex abuse claims. Many of the claims date back decades.

Pennsylvania officials say 301 priests were linked to sex abuse claims and more than 1,000 victims were identified by the grand jury investigation.

The bishops' statements were made on the day the report was released.

From Bishop David A. Zubik of Pittsburgh:

"It is difficult to stand here before you today. Yet, I wouldn't want to be, I couldn't be, any other place than with you at this moment. The women and men of the Grand Jury have spoken. They have spoken for victims. To those women and men and all those they have spoken for: We hear you. The church hears you. I hear you. ' We cannot bury our heads in the sand. There were instances in the past, as outlined in this report, when the church acted in ways that did not respond effectively to victims.

"Swift and firm responses to allegations should have started long before they did. For that I express profound regret. At the same time, I express gratitude to survivors who have taught us to respond with compassion to those who are wounded and with determination to remove offenders from ministry. To apologize and express sorrow for the past is an important step. But it is not enough. Continued action is necessary."

Bishop Zubik's full statement can be found at https://bit.ly/2KSdhWN. The Diocese of Pittsburgh's response to the grand jury report is at https://bit.ly/2MjWvov and a chart on abuse claims https://bit.ly/2Bc8tMx.

From Bishop Ronald W. Gainer of Harrisburg:

"I read the grand jury report on child sexual abuse with great sadness, for once again we read that innocent children were the victims of horrific acts committed against them. I am saddened because I know that behind every story is a child precious in God's sight; a child who has been wounded by the sins of those who should have known better. ' In my own name, and in the name of the diocesan Church of Harrisburg, I express our profound sorrow and apologize to the survivors of child sex abuse, the Catholic faithful and the general public for the abuses that took place and for those church officials who failed to protect children.

"We will continue to make amends for the sins of our past, and offer prayers and support to all victims of these actions. We are committed to continuing and enhancing the positive changes made, to ensure these types of atrocities never occur again. Since the turn of the century, the church has instituted policies that take clear and decisive action to prevent future abuse."

Bishop Gainer's full statement can be found at https://bit.ly/2nANol0. He also referred to the diocese's release Aug. 1 (and updated Aug. 6) of a list of 72 clergy, both dead and alive, accused of abuse at https://bit.ly/2OBYiTn. The diocese has other documents on its new Youth Protection blog, https://www.youthprotectionhbg.com.

"As I stressed last week when we released information regarding our own internal review of child sexual abuse in the Harrisburg Diocese," Bishop Gainer said Aug. 14, "I acknowledge the sinfulness of those who have harmed these survivors, as well as the action and inaction of those in church leadership who failed to respond appropriately."

From Bishop Alfred A. Schlert of Allentown:

"As your bishop, I am deeply saddened by these incidents. I sincerely apologize for the past sins and crimes committed by some members of the clergy. I apologize to the survivors of abuse and their loved ones. For the times when those in the church did not live up to Christ's call to holiness, and did not do what needed to be done, I apologize.

"I also apologize to you, the faithful of the diocese, for the toll this issue has taken over the years: the sadness, the anger, the doubts, and the embarrassment it may have brought you as a Catholic. I ask for your forgiveness, and I thank you for your perseverance and for your courageous witness to our faith. I want to assure you that as a church, we will learn from the report of the grand jury and use it to further improve our protections for children and young people."

Bishop Schlert's full statement, issued as a letter to the people of the diocese, can be found at https://bit.ly/2w7oHAK. A separate diocesan statement can be found at https://bit.ly/2MMBrUs. The diocesan website, https://sp.allentowndiocese.org, also has a video message from the bishop and a fact sheet on diocesan response to abuse claims.

From Bishop Joseph C. Bambera of Scranton:

"Many of you are aware of the statewide grand jury investigation into child sexual abuse within the Catholic Church. The grand jury has issued its report of findings. While this is an uncomfortable and unsettling topic, we must speak openly and frankly about it.

"First of all, none you deserve to be confronted with the behavior described in this report. It is unsettling, tragic and it breaks your heart. To all of you, most especially to those of you who are victims of such heinous actions by members of the clergy, to those of who have suffered because of misguided and inappropriate decisions of church leaders and to those of you who make up the blessed faithful of our church who are simply trying to live your lives as sincere and committed servants of the Lord, I offer my deepest apologies for such behavior and the consequences of this tragic reality in our church.

"There are simply no words that I can offer to take away the pain this has caused. Simply put child sexual abuse cannot be tolerated and must be eradicated from our church. Sadly, the church has taken far too long to do that. While the investigation and the report represent a disturbing and painful chapter in the life of our church, it is necessary for us to address them in order for us to move ahead in a more positive way."

Bishop Bambera's message in a video can be found in English and with Spanish subtitles can be found, respectively, at https://bit.ly/2vIWAbu and https://bit.ly/2Pep0T8. A diocesan statement on the grand jury report and a list released Aug. 14 of priests, religious, lay employees and volunteers credibly accused of abuse released can be found at https://bit.ly/2KSnX7P.

From Bishop Edward C. Malesic, Diocese of Greensburg:

"To the survivors of sexual abuse in the church, whether it was at the hands of a priest, a teacher, volunteer, or even a family member: I grieve for you and I grieve with you. In the Diocese of Greensburg, we stand ready to listen to you and, if you want it, we stand ready to help you heal as much as possible. It does not matter when it occurred, by whom it occurred, where it occurred, or how it occurred. We want to help. Jesus expects nothing less from us.

"Let me tell you this, just in case you have some misgivings because of your past experience with the church: We love you. And I ask all of the Catholic faithful to support you with the care and concern that you deserve.

"Specifically, to those of you who were abused by one of our priests. In the name of the entire Catholic church, I apologize to you for those men who stole your childhood innocence, and in some cases, robbed you of your faith. Those priests acted as wolves among us, even if they were dressed in sheep's clothing. I am sorry for that. In fact, honestly, I am extremely angry at them for what they did to you. I am outraged along with everyone else. I can understand your anger with bishops as well -- perhaps even with me. You deserved much better from us. I promise to do my best to continue to ensure that it will never happen again.

"Let me say this as clearly as possible. Priests who have abused our children have no place at our parish altars wearing the vestments of our sacred mysteries. They have forfeited the right to be called 'Father' by our people. Priests who have abused our children have no place in ministry."

Bishop Malesic's full statement -- in a video message and transcript -- can be found at -- https://bit.ly/2nCJHeD. The diocese Aug. 14 also released a list of clergy with credible and substantiated allegations against them: https://bit.ly/2MHSU0e. Other information and a special issued of The Catholic Accent, the diocesan paper, can be found at https://bit.ly/2w60c76.

From Bishop Lawrence T. Persico, Diocese of Erie:

"Today, I want to express my sorrow directly to the victims of sexual abuse that occurred within the Diocese of Erie. You have suffered in darkness for a very long time.

"As the grand jury report demonstrates, you have experienced unimaginably cruel behavior by the very individuals who should have had the greatest interest in protecting you. You were betrayed by people holding themselves out as servants of God, teachers of children or leaders in the community. ' I humbly offer my sincere apology to each victim who has been violated by anyone affiliated with the Catholic Church. I hope that you can accept it. I know that apologizing is only one step in a very long and complex process of healing.

"You may be aware that we recently unveiled new policies and implemented procedures to ensure that this criminal behavior is stopped. We just released another update of our website today, adding names in light of the grand jury report. This is one sign of our commitment to transparency.

"But this is not the moment to focus on our efforts. Today, I simply stand before you, humbled and sorrowful."

Bishop Persico's full statement can be found at https://bit.ly/2nFt5Dm. Other Bishop Persico statements can be found at https://bit.ly/2Mr0I9K, along with diocese's full disclosure list of credible abuse claims and diocesan child protection protocols.

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Update: Pennsylvania grand jury says church was interested in hiding abuse

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tim Shaffer, Reuters

By Rhina Guidos

WASHINGTON (CNS) - A Pennsylvania grand jury report issued Aug. 14 paints a picture of a Catholic Church in six of the state's dioceses that for decades handled claims of sex abuse of minors under its care by hiding the allegations and brushing aside its victims.

More than 300 priests were linked to abuse claims and over 1,000 victims were identified, said Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro in a news conference following the report's release.

"The main thing was not to help children but to avoid 'scandal,'" says a biting sentence about the behavior of church leaders and officials in the report, detailing a months-long investigation of clergy sex abuse claims in the dioceses of Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, Allentown, Scranton, Greensburg and Erie.

The report of almost 1,400 pages covers a period of 70 years into the past, including information from the early 2000s, a time when news of the clerical sex abuse scandal erupted in the U.S. Before its release, some urged that the report be read keeping in mind that a lot has changed in the church since then, and also that not all of the report's claims are substantiated.

In the Diocese of Pittsburgh, for example, a few priests named in the report are still working there because diocesan officials could not substantiate claims of abuse made against them, Pittsburgh Bishop David A. Zubik told local reporters Aug. 10.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette newspaper reported that Bishop Zubik said: "There is no priest or deacon in an assignment today against whom there was a substantiated allegation of child sexual abuse." He said he would explain the process to parishioners following the report's release.

But there are many painful claims.

In the news conference, Shapiro described allegations of a priest who physically molested a group of children by telling them he was doing a "cancer check," one who he said "impregnated" a girl, others who had boys strike a religious pose naked to take pictures of them. Shapiro spoke of a "systematic cover-up" by church officials who took information to the Vatican, who also did nothing to help victims. He also spoke of priests who "weaponized faith" and had the victims go to confession for the sins that had just been committed against them.

Some of those who testified before the grand jury were present for the release of the report. Reporter Brandie Kessler, of The York Daily Record, tweeted: "Victims and family members are being led in. I'm seeing a few people starting to cry."

Some bishops from the six dioceses named responded almost immediately after the release.

"I read the grand jury report on child sexual abuse with great sadness, for once again we read that innocent children were the victims of horrific acts committed against them," said Harrisburg's Bishop Ronald. W. Gainer in a statement shortly after the document's release. "I am saddened because I know that behind every story is a child precious in God's sight; a child who has been wounded by the sins of those who should have known better."

Bishop Lawrence T. Persico of Erie appeared in a news conference and took questions shortly after the report's release, saying he wanted to address the victims and spoke of their "unimaginable pain" and suffering.

"You were betrayed by people holding themselves out as servants of God," he said. "Each one of you has your own story with pain and grief that is unique to you I don't know presume to know ' I want to assure you that you are not responsible in any way for what happened to you."

He said he offered "sincere apologies" for each of victims.

"Because of the report, the public will begin to understand your pain in a new way," he said, pledging that the Diocese of Erie would not "shroud abusers in secrecy no matter who they are and how long ago it took place."

Bishop Zubik said in a statement, "We are sorry, I am sorry. I take this report to heart. It is a story of peoples' lives."

"No one who has read it can be unaffected," he said, including many who are themselves victims of child sexual abuse and its details would reopen wounds. But no doubt some would feel "betrayed" by the church, too, he added.

"Today, I again apologize to any person or family whose trust, faith and well-being has been devastated by men who were ordained to be the image of Christ," he wrote. "Ever since I first met victims of clergy child sexual abuse in 1988, I have seen the immense pain that this crime causes to its victims, to their loved ones and to the heart of Jesus. Their words break my heart. I have cried with them and for them over the damage done to them and their families by men whose lives should have been committed to protecting their souls from harm. I dedicate myself to helping them and to doing everything possible to prevent such abuse from happening again."

He said the report points out instances in the past when the church did not respond effectively to victims.

"Swift and firm responses to allegations should have started long before they did," he said. "For that I express profound regret."

The grand jury said it found in its investigation that those who claimed sexual abuse of their own or of their children by Catholic clergy or other church workers were "brushed aside," and officials became more concerned with protecting the abusers because they wanted to protect the image of the church, the report says.

Some of those named in the report had their names redacted, or blacked out, after challenging the inclusion of their identities in it without having the legal opportunity to defend themselves. They are scheduled to have a hearing with the court in September.

Some of the dioceses involved said they would release the names of those facing "credible allegations" in the report when the document was made public and some of them did so immediately.

The Diocese of Erie added five names to its list Aug. 14 and those names were not included in the grand jury report, said Bishop Persico. Some, such as the Diocese of Harrisburg, made its list public Aug. 1, updating it Aug. 6, adding the name of an accused priest to it after receiving "additional information."

"We again emphasize that this is a list of accusations; we did not make assessments of credibility or guilt in creating this list," a statement from the diocese said.

Not all who are accused of sexual abuse or of covering it up in the report are priests. Some on the lists released by dioceses are deacons, some are seminarians, teachers or other church workers, and some are no longer alive. Some are accused of being in possession of child pornography, others of inappropriate touching, kissing, soliciting a child for sex, but most are listed as "sexually abusing a child."

Following the sex abuse crisis in 2000, the U.S. bishops in 2002 approved procedures and protocols for addressing allegations of abuse. But Shapiro seemed to cast doubt that it was enough.

"They claimed to have changed their ways," he said.

The development comes as the Catholic Church in the United States finds itself grappling with the late July resignation from the College of Cardinals of a beloved and respected retired prelate, now-Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick, 88, of Washington, following decades-old allegations that he sexually abused seminarians and at least two minors. He has been removed from public ministry, as of June 20, and is awaiting a Vatican trial.

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Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.