Bishops' Plan to deal with sex-abuse scandal


U.S. Catholic bishops unveil plan to deal with sex-abuse scandal

Thu Aug 16, 2018

WASHINGTON, DC, August 16, 2018, (LifeSiteNews) – As shock waves continue following the twin scandals of disgraced former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and the scathing Pennsylvania Grand Jury report detailing decades of sexual abuse and cover up by Catholic clergy, the president of the USCCB has just announced the American hierarchy’s plan to deal with the scandal.

In an 800 word statement, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), reports the result of a series of meetings with members of the USCCB's Executive Committee and other bishops.

“We are faced with a spiritual crisis that requires not only spiritual conversion, but practical changes to avoid repeating the sins and failures of the past,” said the USCCB head.

DiNardo’s statement identifies, “three goals and three principles, along with initial steps of a plan that will involve laity, experts, and the Vatican.” He also promises that “A more developed plan will be presented to the full body of bishops at their general assembly meeting in Baltimore in November.”

Full text of Cardinal DiNardo's statement:
Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Two weeks ago, I shared with you my sadness, anger, and shame over the recent revelations concerning Archbishop Theodore McCarrick. Those sentiments continue and are deepened in light of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report. We are faced with a spiritual crisis that requires not only spiritual conversion, but practical changes to avoid repeating the sins and failures of the past that are so evident in the recent report. Earlier this week, the USCCB Executive Committee met again and established an outline of these necessary changes.

The Executive Committee has established three goals: (1) an investigation into the questions surrounding Archbishop McCarrick; (2) an opening of new and confidential channels for reporting complaints against bishops; and (3) advocacy for more effective resolution of future complaints. These goals will be pursued according to three criteria: proper independence, sufficient authority, and substantial leadership by laity.

We have already begun to develop a concrete plan for accomplishing these goals, relying upon consultation with experts, laity, and clergy, as well as the Vatican. We will present this plan to the full body of bishops in our November meeting. In addition, I will travel to Rome to present these goals and criteria to the Holy See, and to urge further concrete steps based on them.

The overarching goal in all of this is stronger protections against predators in the Church and anyone who would conceal them, protections that will hold bishops to the highest standards of transparency and accountability.

Allow me to briefly elaborate on the goals and criteria that we have identified.

The first goal is a full investigation of questions surrounding Archbishop McCarrick. These answers are necessary to prevent a recurrence, and so help to protect minors, seminarians, and others who are vulnerable in the future. We will therefore invite the Vatican to conduct an Apostolic Visitation to address these questions, in concert with a group of predominantly lay people identified for their expertise by members of the National Review Board and empowered to act.

The second goal is to make reporting of abuse and misconduct by bishops easier. Our 2002 "Statement of Episcopal Commitment" does not make clear what avenue victims themselves should follow in reporting abuse or other sexual misconduct by bishops. We need to update this document. We also need to develop and widely promote reliable third-party reporting mechanisms. Such tools already exist in many dioceses and in the public sector and we are already examining specific options.

The third goal is to advocate for better procedures to resolve complaints against bishops. For example, the canonical procedures that follow a complaint will be studied with an eye toward concrete proposals to make them more prompt, fair, and transparent and to specify what constraints may be imposed on bishops at each stage of that process.

We will pursue these goals according to three criteria.

The first criterion is genuine independence. Any mechanism for addressing any complaint against a bishop must be free from bias or undue influence by a bishop. Our structures must preclude bishops from deterring complaints against them, from hampering their investigation, or from skewing their resolution.

The second criterion relates to authority in the Church. Because only the Pope has authority to discipline or remove bishops, we will assure that our measures will both respect that authority and protect the vulnerable from the abuse of ecclesial power.

Our third criterion is substantial involvement of the laity. Lay people bring expertise in areas of investigation, law enforcement, psychology, and other relevant disciplines, and their presence reinforces our commitment to the first criterion of independence.

Finally, I apologize and humbly ask your forgiveness for what my brother bishops and I have done and failed to do. Whatever the details may turn out to be regarding Archbishop McCarrick or the many abuses in Pennsylvania (or anywhere else), we already know that one root cause is the failure of episcopal leadership. The result was that scores of beloved children of God were abandoned to face an abuse of power alone. This is a moral catastrophe. It is also part of this catastrophe that so many faithful priests who are pursuing holiness and serving with integrity are tainted by this failure.

We firmly resolve, with the help of God's grace, never to repeat it. I have no illusions about the degree to which trust in the bishops has been damaged by these past sins and failures. It will take work to rebuild that trust. What I have outlined here is only the beginning; other steps will follow. I will keep you informed of our progress toward these goals.

Let me ask you to hold us to all of these resolutions. Let me also ask you to pray for us, that we will take this time to reflect, repent, and recommit ourselves to holiness of life and to conform our lives even more to Christ, the Good Shepherd.

Laymen launch website



  • Fri. Aug 17, 2018 - 8:41 pm EST

Bishops, listen to these voices of Catholics you’ve alienated!

WASHINGTON, DC, August 17, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – The normal hum of daily parish life in the Archdiocese of Washington, DC, was rudely interrupted a few weeks ago as Catholics began speaking with one another, expressing alarm over our disgraced former Cardinal McCarrick’s lifetime of homosexual abuses.

Incredulity ensued as McCarrick’s ‘brother’ bishops claimed that all this occurred under their collective pastoral noses––noses which detected not even the slightest whiff of suspicious activity, despite belonging to our highest caliber, wise and discerning shepherds.

Then, with the release of the scathing Pennsylvania Grand Jury investigation revealing decades of sexual abuse by Catholic priests––often covered up by their bishops––alarm has quickly morphed into exasperation and outrage.

Here in Washington, DC, much of that exasperation is now reaching a crescendo with no sign of retreat, and much of it is aimed at our current Cardinal Donald J. Wuerl.

At this point, our prelates would do well to sit still and pay attention to what engaged members of the laity are saying.

Try as they may with their anemic official statements, our American Cardinals and Bishops are frittering away the trust and goodwill they once enjoyed.

Following is a litany of statements from some of the ordinary men and women who fill the pews each Sunday.

Dominic Tondo, a man who is extremely active in men’s ministry in his parish, said:

None of the recent statements from the Archdiocese of Washington, DC address the issue of active homosexual priests and the abuse of young seminarians. This concerns me very much because today’s seminarians are our future priests and the future of the Church.

I would like to know if the Archdiocese of Washington, DC is still actively recruiting homosexual men into the priesthood, as Cardinal McCarrick was as late as 2006 when my son attended a diocesan Men’s Discernment Retreat Weekend? He was shocked when one of the first things that came out of then-Cardinal McCarrick’s mouth was an invitation to gay men; that being gay should not stop you from becoming a priest.

My son wanted to leave the retreat right then and there. It certainly did not make the priesthood look very attractive.

How many other dedicated, qualified young men were turned away by McCarrick’s statement?

From a JPII Institute graduate who has offered years of service to the Church:

There have been plenty of statements made by various Cardinals and Bishops lately, but I’ve yet to hear one of them take responsibility for what they allowed to happen, to renounce their part (active or passive) in allowing this evil to infiltrate the church, to commit to true repentance and penance, and to make resolution to the victims and to all the faithful they shepherd, that this evil will be rooted out and destroyed – even if it means their own resignation and the resignation of the entire college of Bishops.

Nothing less will do. The Bishops cannot be trusted to reform themselves. They have lost the trust of the faithful. They must humble themselves and become priests again, ready to truly serve, protect and listen to their flock.

Laura Quigley, a member of a vibrant suburban Maryland parish, said:

The Pennsylvania Grand Jury report is now even more evidence that many in the hierarchy of the Church do not promote or demand chastity among themselves and the clergy and that they do not take seriously their role as fathers and the trust previously bestowed upon them by the faithful.

The laity are indignant.

We know many good, holy and chaste priests who are wounded by these attacks on children and on the priesthood. We need to see real contrition on the part of the bishops and many must take responsibility for knowing and looking the other way and resign. This culture of corruption, unaccountability, and cover-up is not the work of faithful shepherds and must end.

A man from the same parish wondered, “Can the USCCB survive this? Wuerl's claim he was acting on the behalf of victims will be the rope they will hang him with.”

“Every single one of them should be defrocked and thrown in jail,” says Michael Lewis, who once worked for another diocese. “Priests, Bishops, Cardinals, even Francis if he knew/was involved. I won't hold my breath. Pope Francis will issue some BS call for ‘mercy’ and sentence these people to ‘prayer and penance’ in some secluded retreat.”

“Sad to say, but I really don't think most of the bureaucracy cares about the wrongdoing,” continues Lewis. “They care that it was exposed.”

“Pray, yes, but also ACT. Prayer alone ain't gonna do nothing for the MILLIONS of lives affected by psychological issues, alcoholism, addiction, divorce, sexual dysfunction, and on and on caused by the abuse.”

Another thundered, “Raze the USCCB to the ground and salt the soil upon which it stood, and never replicate it.”

Ellen Connolly, from the neighboring diocese of Arlington, Virginia, issued a plea to priests:

To all the rank and file parish priests out there: I implore you, encourage you, and urge you to speak up – loudly and clearly about the scandal. We need to hear from you and know that you are angry, horrified, and prepared to defend each and everyone of us. We need to know that our dignity is worth more than your career. When you avoid speaking on the scandal and stay silent it makes us wonder if one of us were abused, would you stay silent, too?

The silence is deafening. It is so deafening that it will burst the eardrums of the faithful and by the time strong words come many won’t be able to hear.

Ellen explained the awkward position in which the avalanche of scandals has placed parents across the country:

My husband and I had to sit our 5 kids down and break the news to them about the scandal. We wanted them to hear it from us first so that we could help them decipher the news, process the pain and have a clear picture of good and evil.


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So the Bishops begin dealing with 'scandal'. Get out the propaganda machine and whitewash the whole thing.
That should do it! Yes! otherwise people will lose their faith. The destruction of the faith in the souls of all those innocent young boys, many of whom committed suicide, is that what troubles our good bishops? And what about the crushed families of those children? No of course - the payments met the demands of justice didn't they?

Courageous Catholics and sainted Priests were treated with contempt by the very same Bishops who now want to sweep everything under the carpet with a plan. A good plan mind you. Express sorrow, seek prayers, reflect, repent - say it will never happen again.

I have a better one.
i) A priest found guilty of violating a child's innocence be defrocked with all that entails. He would have no more priestly faculties. Instead of that bishops refused to listen to the child's parents; moved the priest to another location with children; permitted him to say Mass and hear Confessions where penitents are subject to his counselling.

ii) A thorough internal investigation be held culminating in an ecclesiastical court that tries each suspect to prove guilt or innocence. Those guilty be judged by the church's own teachings, defrocked and handed over to the laws of the land where he could have a chance of saving his own soul through the penance that would entail.

iii) Bishops now seeking to find a plan to cover up the 'scandal' be subject to the very same investigation. Those suspected be tried by the same ecclesiastical court judged by the church's own teachings, defrocked and handed over to the laws of the land where he could have a chance of saving his own soul through the penance that would entail.

1v) If evidence is found of deceased clergy being guilty their names published.

But he that shall scandalize one of these little ones that believe in me, it were
better for him that a millstone should be hanged about his neck, and that he
should be drowned in the depth of the sea.
(Matt.18 : 6)

Justice has to be seen to be done. God's laws demand it. The child demands it. Families of victims demand it. The natural law demands it.

Until this is done, let Christ's words speak to us:
You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt lose its savour, wherewith shall it be salted?
It is good for nothing any more but to be cast out, and to be trodden on by men.
(Matt. 5 : 13)

And if the Church loses its savour, because of the cowardice of men,
how will any soul on earth be saved?


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Press Release

Attorney General Shapiro Details Findings of 2-Year Grand Jury Investigation into Child Sex Abuse by Catholic Priests in Six Pennsylvania Dioceses

August 14, 2018 | Topic: Criminal

Shapiro Stands with Abuse Survivors, Challenges PA Bishops to Endorse Grand Jury’s Recommended Reforms in State Law

HARRISBURG – Surrounded by survivors of sexual abuse by Catholic priests, Attorney General Josh Shapiro today revealed the comprehensive findings of a statewide investigative grand jury that spent two years uncovering abuse of children by priests, and a systematic cover up spanning decades by senior church leaders in Pennsylvania and the Vatican. The grand jury recommended reforming the criminal and civil statutes of limitations on sexual abuse in Pennsylvania, among other recommendations, and Attorney General Shapiro called on every Catholic bishop to support the reforms.

“Today, the most comprehensive report on child sexual abuse within the church ever produced in our country was released,” Attorney General Shapiro said. “Pennsylvanians can finally learn the extent of sexual abuse in these dioceses. For the first time, we can all begin to understand the systematic cover up by church leaders that followed. The abuse scarred every diocese. The cover up was sophisticated. The church protected the institution at all costs.”

The investigation captured widespread sexual abuse and institutional cover up across the entire state. Building on investigations of the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese and the Philadelphia Archdiocese by previous grand juries, the 40th Statewide Grand Jury’s investigation covered the other Dioceses of Allentown, Erie, Harrisburg, Greensburg, Pittsburgh and Scranton, giving a complete picture of pervasive abuse in dioceses across Pennsylvania. The grand jury found:

  • 301 Catholic priests identified as predator priests who sexually abused children while serving in active ministry in the church.
  • Detailed accounts of over 1,000 children victimized sexually by predator priests, with the grand jury noting it believed the real number of victims was in the “thousands.”
  • Senior church officials, including bishops, monsignors and others, knew about the abuse committed by priests, but routinely covered it up to avoid scandal, criminal charges against priests, and monetary damages to the dioceses.
  • Priests committed acts of sexual abuse upon children, and were routinely shuttled to other parishes – while parishioners were left unaware of sexual predators in their midst.
The 884-page grand jury report documents scores of sexual assaults and rapes of children by priests, and the institutional cover ups that followed by senior church officials, including:

  • In the Diocese of Erie, (41 predator priests named), one priest, Father Chester Gawronski, fondled boys and told them he was giving them a “cancer check.” Gawronski provided the Diocese with a list of 41 “possible” victims. He confessed to multiple instances of sexual abuse. Yet from 1987 until 2002 – 15 years – Gawronski remained in active ministry, repeatedly reassigned to new parishes.
  • In the Diocese of Allentown (37 predator priests named), one priest, Father Michael Lawrence rubbed a 12-year-old boy’s genitals so roughly the boy felt pain. “Please help me, I sexually molested a boy,” Lawrence admitted to a church official, who noted the confession in a confidential memo. Even after that admission, the Diocese ruled: “the experience will not necessarily be a horrendous trauma” for the victim. Lawrence was left in ministry for years by three different Bishops.
  • In the Diocese of Greensburg (20 predator priests named), one priest, Father Raymond Lukac, impregnated a 17-year-old, forged another pastor’s signature on a marriage certificate, then divorced the girl shortly after she gave birth. Despite that, Lukac remained in ministry while the Diocese sought a “benevolent bishop” in another state to take the predator, hiding him from justice.
  • In the Diocese of Harrisburg (45 predator priests named), one priest, Father Joe Pease, sexually assaulted a boy repeatedly when the victim was between 13 and 15. Pease admitted to diocese officials to once finding the victim naked upstairs in the rectory – but called it “horse play”. In a secret memo, the Diocese noted: “At this point we are at an impasse—allegations and no admission” before cycling Pease through church-run treatment and allowing him back in active ministry for seven more years.
  • In the Diocese of Pittsburgh (99 predator priests named), a group of at least four predator priests groomed and abused young boys. They used whips, violence and sadism in sexually assaulting their young victims. One boy, not yet 18, was forced to stand on a bed in a rectory, strip naked, and pose as Christ on the Cross for the priests. They took photos of their victim, adding them to a collection of child pornography which they produced and shared on church grounds.
  • In the Diocese of Scranton (59 predator priests named), one priest, Thomas Skotek, raped a young girl, got her pregnant, and arranged an abortion. The Bishop, James Timlin, expressed his feelings in a letter: “This is a very difficult time in your life, and I realize how upset you are. I too share your grief.” The bishop’s letter was not sent to the girl. It was addressed to the rapist.
To read the full grand jury report:

The grand jury detailed that the cover ups by the church served a key purpose – the longer they covered up abuses, the less chance that law enforcement could prosecute predator priests because the statute of limitations would run out. “As a consequence of the cover up, almost every instance of abuse we found is too old to be prosecuted,” the grand jury found. But not in every instance.

  • In Greensburg, Father John Sweeney was charged by the Attorney General’s office with sexually abusing a 7-year-old boy named “Josh.” Sweeney pleaded guilty this month, is now an admitted sexual predator, and awaits sentencing.
  • In Erie, Father David Poulson was charged with sexually assaulting a boy for eight years, starting when he was 8 years old. Poulson had the boy go to confession and admit his “sins”—to Poulson. Bishop Donald Trautman knew about and covered up the abuse.
In making recommendations for significant changes to Pennsylvania law governing child sex abuse, the grand jury stated: “We can’t charge most of the culprits. What we can do is tell our fellow citizens what happened, and try to get something done about it.”

Attorney General Shapiro strongly supported each reform recommended by the grand jury – and issued a challenge to every Pennsylvania bishop.

“Adopt and support each of these recommended reforms to Pennsylvania law – now,” Attorney General Shapiro said. “Stand up today and announce your support for these common-sense reforms. That’s the test that will determine whether things have really changed or if it will just be business as usual when the dust settles.”

The grand jury recommends these changes to Pennsylvania law:

  1. Eliminate the criminal statute of limitations for sexually abusing children. Current law permits victims to come forward until age 50. The grand jury recommends eliminating the criminal statute of limitation entirely for such crimes.
  2. Create a “civil window” so older victims may now sue for damages. Current law gives child sex abuse victims 12 years to sue, once they turn 18. But victims in their 30s and older fall under a different law; they only get two years. The grand jury called that “unacceptable” and recommends a limited “window” offering victims a chance to be heard in court for an additional two years.
  3. Clarify penalties for a continuing failure to report child abuse. The grand jury recommends changing the abuse reporting law to clarify the duty to report abuse. The new language imposes a continuing obligation to report “while the person knows or has reasonable cause to believe the abuser is likely to commit additional acts of child abuse.”
  4. Specify that Civil Confidentiality Agreements do not cover communications with law enforcement. The grand jury wrote that the Church has used confidentiality agreements as a way to silence abuse victims from speaking publicly or cooperating with law enforcement. The grand jury proposes a new statute which clearly states that no past or present non-disclosure agreement prevents a victim from talking to police. Additionally, future agreements should state contact with police about criminal activity is permitted.
Attorney General Shapiro said his office pursues child sexual abuse – and institutional cover up – wherever his prosecutors find it. Since taking office in January 2017, Shapiro’s office has filed child sexual abuse charges against a western Pennsylvania police chief, a deputy county coroner, a pediatrician and many others. Last year, the Office of Attorney General secured convictions against the President of Penn State, Graham Spanier, and two other university officials for endangering the welfare of minors in covering up child sexual abuse committed by former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky.

“Wherever we find child sexual abuse – in a government office, in a university, or in places of worship – we’re going to investigate it and protect victims from further harm,” Attorney General Shapiro said. “Today, after decades of enforced silence and institutional cover up, the voices of the victims of sex abuse in the Catholic Church in Pennsylvania are finally being heard. The time for institutions to place their own interests above protecting our children is over.”

# # #

Contact the Press Office

Mailing Address:
PA Office of Attorney General / Press Office
16th Floor, Strawberry Square
Harrisburg, PA 17120



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