Bishops ‘shamed’ by ‘sins, omissions’ of priests, bishops leading to abuse

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Bishop Lawrence T. Persico of Erie, Pa., speaks during a meeting in late January at the headquarters of U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington. The Diocese of Erie has been at the forefront of an effort urging the release of a grand jury report on abuse claims in Erie and five other Pennsylvania dioceses. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

WASHINGTON (CNS) — The U.S. bishops as “are shamed by and sorry for the sins and omissions by Catholic priests and Catholic bishops” that have led to sexual abuse and caused great harm to many, said an Aug. 14 statement from the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the chairman of its child protection committee.

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“We are committed to work in determined ways so that such abuse cannot happen,” said Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, the president, and Bishop Timothy L. Doherty of Lafayette, Indiana, chairman of the Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People.

They pledged “to maintain transparency” and provide for “the permanent removal of offenders from ministry and to maintain safe environments for everyone.”

Cardinal DiNardo also said he is hosting a series of meetings during the week to respond to “the broader issue of safe environments within the church,” and will provide an update when the meetings are concluded.

The prelates’ joint statement was issued in response to the release the same day of a grand jury report based on a months-long investigation by the state’s attorney general into sexual abuse claims in six Pennsylvania dioceses — Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, Allentown, Scranton, Erie and Greensburg.

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The report covers a span of over 70 years. Many of the claims go back decades.

“(The report) again illustrates the pain of those who have been victims of the crime of sexual abuse by individual members of our clergy, and by those who shielded abusers and so facilitated an evil that continued for years or even decades,” said Cardinal DiNardo and Bishop Doherty.

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“We are grateful for the courage of the people who aided the investigation by sharing their personal stories of abuse,” they said. “As a body of bishops, we are shamed by and sorry for the sins and omissions by Catholic priests and Catholic bishops.”

They added, “We are profoundly saddened each time we hear about the harm caused as a result of abuse, at the hands of a clergyman of any rank.”

Cardinal DiNardo and Bishop Doherty said the USCCB committee headed by the Indiana bishop and the USCCB Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection at the bishops’ conference in Washington “will continue to offer avenues to healing for those who have been abused. We are committed to work in determined ways so that such abuse cannot happen.”

In 2002, the bishops adopted the “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People,” which, they said, “commits us to respond promptly and compassionately to victims, report the abuse of minors, remove offenders and take ongoing action to prevent abuse.” The charter was revised and updated in 2011 and again in 2018.

“We pledge to maintain transparency and to provide for the permanent removal of offenders from ministry and to maintain safe environments for everyone,” the two prelates said. “All policies and procedures regarding training and background check requirements are made publicly available by dioceses and eparchies.”

“We pray that all survivors of sexual abuse find healing, comfort and strength in God’s loving presence as the church pledges to continue to restore trust through accompaniment, communion, accountability and justice.”