The Roman Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg in Pennsylvania released the names of the 71 clergymen accused of child sex abuse Wednesday and blamed bishops for failing to stop the abuse.
The diocese announced that it is striking the names of every diocesan bishop since 1947 from any position of honor, as they are held responsible for failing to handle allegations of abuse and enabling the priests who allegedly perpetrated the abuse. Harrisburg Bishop Ronald Gainer issued a public apology at the diocese’s Wednesday press conference to victims, local Catholic adherents and the community at large. (RELATED: Pennsylvania Attorney General Slams Clergy For Trying To Stall Release Of Sex Abuse Report)
“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,” Gainer said, according to the diocesan website.
“The decision to remove names of Bishops and clerics may prove to be controversial, but as a Bishop, I strongly believe that leaders of the Diocese must hold themselves to a higher standard, and must yield honorary symbols in the interest of healing,” he added.
Gainer also assured the public that he has and will continue to implement a zero tolerance policy toward clergy abuse and that all allegations of child sexual abuse are handled swiftly, transparently and reported to the proper authorities. The church will also adopt a new series of policies to help further prevent abuse and the cover-up of abuse.
The Harrisburg Diocese is now the second Pennsylvania diocese to publish the names of accused clergy ahead of the release of a massive, 900-page grand jury report on clergy sexual abuse in a total of six dioceses.
“With the Grand Jury investigation concluded and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ordering a stay of the Grand Jury’s full report pending further review, the Diocese of Harrisburg chose to release our own list of clergy and seminarians who were accused of sexual abuse of minors as we felt it was critical to get this information out to the public and our parishioners as soon as possible,” Gainer said.
He also emphasized that the list did not make any judgement as to the credibility of the accusations, but listed any priest against whom an official accusation had been made, except for those who had been cleared by police or court.
The diocese is also waiving all confidentiality rights it gained in past settlements of child abuse cases, in a move to be more transparent and allow victims to speak out.
The majority of allegations related to the list of 71 clergymen are from the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s, and none of those listed are still in ministry.
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