“We are shamed by and sorry for the sins and omissions by Catholic priests and Catholic bishops.” This was the first reaction of the head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, to the publication yesterday of a damning report by the Attorney General of Pennyslvania Josh Shapiro about seven decades of sexual abuse of children by priests in six Catholic dioceses and the “systematic cover up by senior church officials in Pennsylvania and at the Vatican.” Mr. Shapiro said that his office’s two-year investigation identified 301 priests who abused children and more than 1,000 victims.
Church now a safe place – DiNardo
Cardinal DiNardo said that the policy changes bishops made in 2002 have made the church a safe place for children and holds priests accountable for abuse.
“We pledge to maintain transparency and to provide for the permanent removal of offenders from ministry and to maintain safe environments for everyone,” Cardinal DiNardo said in a statement co-signed with Bishop Timothy L. Doherty of Lafayette, Ind., chairman of the Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People. “All policies and procedures regarding training and background check requirements are made publicly available by dioceses.”
The 800 page grand jury report agrees with the statement by DiNardo saying that most of the abuse cases it documents occurred “before the early 2000’s”. The report also acknowledges the fact that the church is now advising law enforcement of abuse reports more promptly.” It adds that “internal review processes have been established. Victims are no longer quite so invisible.”
Wuerl defends his own record
Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington who headed the Diocese of Pittsburgh from 1988 to 2006 said in a statement that the sexual abuse of children “a terrible tragedy” but went on to defend his own record in Pittsburgh.
“As I have made clear throughout my more than 30 years as a bishop, the sexual abuse of children by some members of the Catholic Church is a terrible tragedy, and the Church can never express enough our deep sorrow and contrition for the abuse, and for the failure to respond promptly and completely,” Cardinal Wuerl said.
“While I understand this Report may be critical of some of my actions, I believe the Report confirms that I acted with diligence, with concern for the victims and to prevent future acts of abuse,” he continued. “I sincerely hope that a just assessment of my actions, past and present, and my continuing commitment to the protection of children will dispel any notions otherwise made by this report.”
On the other hand Attorney General Shapiro lamented that some church leaders cited in the report for mishandling abuse claims have been promoted, including “Bishop Wuerl,” he said, “is now Cardinal Wuerl.”
Shapiro praises Persico
While Shapiro lambasted the Catholic bishops who hid the abuse he had words of praise for Bishop Lawrence Persico of the Diocese of Erie. Shapiro said that Bishop Persico was the only one from the bishops of Pennsylvania to personally give his testimony before the grand jury. The other bishops gave their testimony through a written statement.