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Report: Church leaders pressured victims, cops over abuse

The Most Rev. Ronald Gainer, the Roman Catholic bishop of the diocese of Harrisburg, Pa., discusses child sexual abuse by clergy and a decision by the diocese to remove names of bishops going back to the 1940s after concluding they did not respond adequately to abuse allegations, Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2018 during a news conference in Harrisburg, Pa. The bishop apologized to victims and said the diocese is posting an online list of 71 priests and others in the church accused of the abuse. Following the Erie, Pa., diocese, the Harrisburg diocese is the second Pennsylvania diocese to get ahead of a roughly 900-page grand jury report that could be made public in August 2018, which the Pennsylvania Supreme Court said found more than 300 "predator priests" in six of the state's eight dioceses. (AP Photo/Mark Scolforo)

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — A grand jury investigating clergy sex abuse in six Pennsylvania Roman Catholic dioceses found that church leaders were more interested in preventing scandal than protecting children, in some cases discouraging victims from going to police or pressuring law enforcement officials to end or avoid investigations, according to a court filing.

The grand jury’s full, nearly 900-page, report is expected to be released in the next two weeks. But a court filing made public Friday, resolving one of many legal disputes over the report, included excerpts from the grand jury’s findings on the role of church leaders in the clergy abuse scandal.

According to the document, the grand jury concluded that victims were “brushed aside, in every part of the state, by church leaders who preferred to protect the abusers and their institutions above all.”

“The main thing was not to help children, but to avoid ‘scandal,'” the grand jury report says.

“Several diocesan administrators, including the bishops, often dissuaded victims from reporting abuse to police, pressured law enforcement to terminate or avoid an investigation, or conducted their own deficient, biased investigation without reporting crimes against children to the proper authorities,” the report says.

The court filing is at least the second to reveal some of the grand jury’s broad findings. In a ruling last week, the Supreme Court disclosed that the grand jury had identified over 300 “predator priests” in the six dioceses that were investigated: Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh and Scranton. Together, they minister to more than 1.7 million Catholics.

The latest disclosures came in a filing by the state attorney general’s office and retired Erie Bishop Donald Trautman. He dropped his challenge to the report’s publication in its current form after prosecutors agreed some of its broad claims were not specifically directed at him.
Trautman, who headed the Erie Diocese from 1990 to 2012, issued a three-page statement that expressed his “disgust” with clergy sexual abuse. He said he moved to withdraw his case after concluding his pending appeal likely would mean large parts of the report focused on Erie would otherwise remain blacked out for the immediate future, something he did not want.

The grand jury report will be released initially with the names of some of the accused blacked out. They have argued the report violates their constitutional rights to reputation and due process of law. The court plans to hear oral argument on their claims in September.

Trautman said he has met or tried to meet with every victim of abuse and helped them obtain diocese-paid mental health treatment. He said he also worked with Erie prosecutors in 2002 to review Erie Diocese records on abuse allegations, and prosecutors announced no offenders were in a position to endanger children in the community. He said he also regularly reported accusations to police and removed at least 16 priests from active ministry over allegations of child abuse.

“There is no evidence that Bishop Trautman moved priests from parish to parish to ‘cover up’ abuse allegations or that he failed to take action when an allegation was raised,” according to the statement released by his lawyer, David Berardinelli. “There simply is no pattern or practice of putting the church’s image or a priest’s reputation above the protection of children.”

Democratic Attorney General Josh Shapiro, whose office ran the investigation, said Trautman’s decision paves the way for victims from the Erie Diocese to have their story told without redactions.

“This was the right decision and should serve as a model for others who continue to fight the release of the report,” Shapiro said.
When Shapiro’s office filed charges in May against an Erie priest, the Rev. David Poulson, court documents alleged that a confidential diocesan memo showed Trautman knew, from at least 2010, about complaints concerning Poulson’s contact with children.

Poulson is accused of sexually assaulting at least two boys between 2002 and 2010. The complaint alleges one of the boys was molested in various church rectories while he served as an altar boy and was made to confess the abuse to Poulson later for absolution.

Trautman responded at that time by saying he had tried to contact the young man to ask about the allegations but received no response.
He also asserted that he had been misled.

“Why would I cover up Father Poulson’s behavior when I had reported to several district attorneys the behavior of other priests? I know of no sexual abuse by Poulson during my time as bishop of Erie,” he wrote in a statement.
AP writer Claudia Lauer in Philadelphia contributed to this story.

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Mark Scolforo

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  • Do ya really mean to say that the people who were responsible for their flocks were instead covering up the abuse, as if they had been doing it for centuries?

    Color me truly shocked! All of this talk about “innocent life” apparently becomes irrelevant the moment of birth, because a “scandal in the church” is just ever so much important than the innocence of children. I guess this is what hyper conservative religion teaches the hyper conservative religionists.

  • Francis’ willingness to let Church officials in Pennsylvania try to prevent publication of the report tells us how much his happy-talk about “transparency” and “zero tolerance” is really worth. Less than nothing.

  • I thought all of these problems were supposed to have been resolved after the scandal in Boston ca. 2002, problems that should never have happened after the scandal in Louisiana during the eighties. Wasn’t Catholic “Safe Environment Training” supposed to take care of all this? Apparently not, it seems.

  • You completely misunderstood. The Safe Environment was for the priests and bishops. This was all in accordance with Natural Law and Canon Law, of course.

  • Unless some of the bishops were older than they looked and had fake ID, they could hardly have “been doing it for centuries”.

    I suppose this would be a good place to insert references on abuse in certain other communities, but for the moment I prefer the high road.

  • The Safe Environment followed the actions and inactions detailed in the grand jury report.

  • Francis willingness to allow some of the 5,500 plus bishops run their own dioceses and interface with the authorities in their own countries helps explain why attempts to lay problems on the Holy Father legally have failed.

    He is not a CEO and bishops are not branch managers of a corporation.

    But you knew that.

  • Wasn’t the high point of the Safe Environment policy when His Holiness JPII brought Cardinal Law out of Boston to the safety of the Vatican?

  • No, I mean 1983, which was when the scandal in the Diocese of Lafayette, Louisiana happened.

    Edit: I just Googled it. Make that 1985.

  • One of the main problems with organized church——any of them——is that protecting the entity, the institution, the reputation is always the paramount objective in the minds of those in charge. It’s silly to ask, “Why don’t you guys do something else”? It’s better to ask, “Why am I as stuck in this stuff as they are?”

  • I agree to a certain extent. It is one thing to be a loyal company man. It’s another thing to expose yourself to examination.
    Remove just for a moment, that these men are supposed to be “in persona Christi”. They are really no different than any other government or company employee that has either done something wrong; or managed someone that has done something wrong. Either way, the first priority is damage control to protect your well being.
    All of that being said, it is because they are in persona Christi that they adhere to the fundamental tenets of the church and own up to their sins or the acquiescence of them.
    That is the great challenge for all of us as human beings; the self examination of conscience and acceptance for ones sins. THEN, you still need to inform the world; live through the scrutiny, embarrassment and ridicule; and accept the consequences for your actions.
    This is my church; and has I have said before, they need to completely purge anyone who has committed a crime or covered it up.
    The faithful demand it.

  • No, share. There is all kinds of abuse in all kinds of communities. Which abuses do you have in mind?

  • But bishops are appointed by popes and popes can fire bishops. So popes can order bishops to stand down and allow the chips to fall where they may.

  • Yes and no.

    Bishops are appointed by popes, but they are not district officers for a large corporation. They can only be relieved by due process. They are successors to the Apostles, not supervisors.

    The Holy Father is not an expert on American law, or “tuned in” to the American psyche – to say the least.

    In fact the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church has more clout except in extremis than the Pontiff.

  • The word “share” does not appear in the post to which I responded, nor does it fit the sense of what was written.

    I suppose since we’re all human, and all sinners, we all share sin in that sense.

  • Bob Jose Arnzen Carioca, that obviously isn’t what Ben meant. stop twisting Ben’s words to suit your bigoted agenda.

    As for you, you always take the low road, as your posts so often demonstrate.

  • No, Bob Jose Arnzen Carioca. We don’t share your sins, and many of us don’t participate in your bigotry either.

  • There are no safes in Catholicism. At least, there weren’t until Catholic doctrine changed again, for the umpteenth time…

  • There are no safes in Catholicism. At least, there weren’t until Catholic doctrine recently changed, for the umpteenth time…

  • Before Thy eyes, O Lord, we bring our offences, and we compare them with the stripes we have received.
    If we consider the evil we have wrought, what we suffer is little, what we deserve is great.
    What we have committed is very grave, what we have suffered is very slight.
    We feel the punishment of sin, yet withdraw not from the obstinacy of sinning.
    Under Thy lash our inconstancy is visited, but our sinfulness is not changed.
    Our suffering soul is tonnented, but our neck is not bent.
    Our life groans under sorrow, yet mends not in deed.
    If Thou spare us we correct not our ways: if Thou punish we cannot endure it.
    In time of correction we confess our wrong-doing: after Thy visitation we forget that we have wept.
    If Thou stretchest forth Thy hand we promise amendment; if Thou withholdest the sword we keep not our promise.
    If Thou strikest we cry out for mercy: if Thou sparest we again provoke Thee to strike.
    Here we are before Thee, O Lord, shameless criminals: we know that unless Thou pardon we shall deservedly perish.
    Grant then, almighty Father, without our deserving it, the pardon we ask for; Thou who madest out of nothing those who ask Thee.
    Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

  • The only ” Catholic doctrine ” is self-preservation at any and all costs in human suffering – both psychological and physical, and death.

  • RCC bishops should be forced to register with Washington for what they really are – agents of a foreign government – The Holy See.
    They seek to influence our lawmakers to pass and influence legislation to the benefit of a foreign government.

    The Church and it’s bishops are involved in a corporate commercial for-profit enterprise. It should lose it’s tax exemption, open it’s financial records, and file an annual report.

    The Church and the bishops are complicit and accessories to the sexual
    abuse crimes perpetrated by their employees – the clergy. They are and have conspired to interfere with criminal authorities by intimidating victims and pressuring law enforcement to abrogate their sworn duties.

    They should also be prosecuted under the RICO statute – ” The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, commonly referred to as the RICO Act or simply RICO, is a United States federal law that provides for extended criminal penalties and a civil cause of action for acts performed as part of an ongoing criminal organization. ”

    If McDonalds corporate, and their branch managers perpetrated, and perpetrate what the RCC and bishops are doing – they would all be under indictment.

    Perhaps that could be Mueller’s next task in cleaning-up the criminal corruption in the US.

  • You’ve run:

    “RCC bishops should be forced to register with Washington for what they
    really are – agents of a foreign government – The Holy See. They seek to influence our lawmakers to pass and influence legislation to the benefit of a foreign government.”

    by in the past.

    And in the past I’ve pointed out that was the shtick of Glenn L. Archer, like yourself a rabid anti-Catholic and one of the founders of “Protestants and Other Americans United for Separation of Church and State”, 70 years ago.

    Among the other fun he had was petitioning the FCC to deny TV licenses to Jesuits because they were an “alien organization”, demanding that Cardinals in the Catholic Church have their citizenship revoked, and asking the House Un-American Activities Committee to investigate the intentions, scope and achievements of Vatican espionage in the United States, charging that the Catholic clergy had learned American secrets hardly anyone except the president knows.

    Of course someone pointed out to him that all of this violated the First Amendment and that if they did that, they’d have to investigate the Protestant Episcopal Church and its ties to the British.

    Like yourself he was a slow learner and was still going at it when he finally exited reality in 2002.

    I assume you’ll be doing the same.

  • Church leaders were more interested in protecting the church than in protecting children? I;’m shocked, SHOCKED!

    Still, it’s nice to see a grand jury state what has been obvious to everyone for decades.

  • All over again, what we’re learning from the Pennsylvania report shows how right Irish moral theologian Vincent Twomey was when he said, in 2009 about the Dublin church leaders,

    “The unprofessional, inadequate managerial structures of the Dublin archdiocese, it seems, were partly responsible for the cover-up and inaction – plus the tendency to blame others higher up. But the real cause – and it is frightening – is the lack of expected emotional response to reports about the abuse of children. Nowhere, as far as I can see, was there any expression of horror or outrage by those who were told. Horror and outrage are the natural passions of the good person which God gave us to ensure that we get up and do something in the face of injustice done to others.”

    The real cause – and it is frightening – is the lack of expected emotional response to reports about the abuse of children. Nowhere, as far as I can see, was there any expression of horror or outrage by those who were told. Horror and outrage are the natural passions of the good person which God gave us to ensure that we get up and do something in the face of injustice done to others.

    Words that should keep ringing in our ears….

  • OMG! Sometimes learning new things each day is down right soul crushing. Never knew about the level of depravity in this diocese.

  • Vincent Twomey has many opinions, all of which he likes to share, but he has never been to Pennsylvania, nor was the Archbishop of Dublin.

    “Nowhere, as far as I can see, was there any expression of horror or outrage by those who were told.”

    Grand Jury reports would not detail emotional responses not directly related to the legal matters being considered.

  • Anyone who supports the Catholic Church in any way these days is complicit in this abuse. The Church is the largest sex trafficking mob on the planet.

  • Oh, this just can’t be, because Mr. Bobbob insists that “canon law” dictates reporting such abuse to civil authorities. /s

  • The report needs to be made public. I would hope all names are included but it is more important that the big picture of what was happening in PA dioceses be made clear; investigations of individual priests who’s names are redacted should be vigorously pursued. Hidden problems that affect families so dramatically cannot be resolved in secrecy. Too many people have been hurt for too long. This needs to end.

    I am much impressed with the action of Bishop Gainer of Harrisburg in removing the names of bishops going back to the 1940’s from buildings, rooms, and facilities of the diocese for their failure to deal with sex abuse. I don’t know if it is “fair” – if everyone of them knew, but I do think they should have known. And, maybe he has records that do show each of them were told of an incidence of abuse and just did nothing but ignore it, hide it, not report it.

    I wonder, too, if the Archdiocese of Philadelphia should not do the same regarding some of the previous archbishops? One of the responsibilities of an archbishop is: “…to inform the Holy Father in the case of any abuse or neglect in another diocese, and with his permission to conduct a formal visitation to the suffragan bishop…” Do the previous investigations of Philadelphia and Altoona-Johnston make clear that the archbishops knew? We know Bevilacqua and Rigali did – what about Krol? I wonder if they ever did “inform the Holy Father” and, if so, what the response was? It may well have been the nothing that it seems the Vatican did for decades. Or, perhaps they failed in their duties as archbishops and never told. I doubt we will ever learn if anything was reported to the Vatican – diplomatic immunity and all that.

    Oh what a tangled web we weave
    When first we practice to deceive.

    The quote re archbishops responsibilities comes from here:

  • Everyone who has experienced sexual abuse should go directly to the police and the civil authorities, not to the hierarchs of the Church. Don’t inform the bishops or other prelates, for there’s a big chance they’ll work against you. The less they know the better it is. They should be completely avoided. Victims should work exclusively with the civil authorities. For the hierarchs it is enough to know about the charges against them at the moment when they get arrested. Don’t awake sleeping dogs. It is not wise policy to inform the criminals beforehand about the proceedings against them.

  • Just read the Wikipedia entry for Twomey. It says nothing about Pennsylvania. There are plenty of “Vincent Twomey Pennsylvania” Google results but most refer to athletic contests. What am I supposed to be searching for, a PDF of his passport stamps?

  • No, you need to be searching for a good reason to be busting my chops, because from where I’m sitting this exchange looks like you picking nits for no good reason.

    Unless I hear something coherent and persuasive, my participation ends here.

  • You made a claim that they had never been to Pennsylvania. I simply asked what your basis for that was. From where I’m sitting, you pulled it out of what you’re sitting on.

  • Parker, you can’t even copy and paste that text competently.

    Take your sick holy book and shove it up your backside.

  • Catholics deserve the criticism, having been inflicting their sick religion on others for so long.

  • Oh glorious patriarc St. Joseph, who merited to be called “just’ by the Holy Ghost, I urgently recommend to the soul of [Name], which Jesus redeemed at the price of his precious blood.

    Thou knowest how deplorable is the state and how unhappy the life of those who have banished this loving savior from their hearts, and how greatly they are exposed to the danger of losing him eternally. Permit not, I beseech thee, that a soul so dear to me should continue any longer in its evil ways; preserve it from the danger that threatens it; touch the heart of the prodigal child and conduct him back to the bosom of the fondest of fathers. Abandon him not, I implore thee, till thou hast opened to him the gates of the heavenly city, where he will praise and bless thee throughout eternity for the happiness which he will owe to thy powerful intercession.

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