Thursday 13 December 2018

US diocese says 71 members of church were accused of child sex abuse

FILE – In this Nov. 14, 2011 file photo, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick prays during the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ annual fall assembly in Baltimore. Pope Francis has accepted U.S. prelate Theodore McCarrick’s offer to resign from the College of Cardinals following allegations of sexual abuse, including one involving an 11-year-old boy, and ordered him to conduct a “life of prayer and penance” in a home to be designated by the pontiff until a church trial is held, the Vatican said Saturday, July 28, 2018. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)
FILE – In this Nov. 14, 2011 file photo, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick prays during the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ annual fall assembly in Baltimore. Pope Francis has accepted U.S. prelate Theodore McCarrick’s offer to resign from the College of Cardinals following allegations of sexual abuse, including one involving an 11-year-old boy, and ordered him to conduct a “life of prayer and penance” in a home to be designated by the pontiff until a church trial is held, the Vatican said Saturday, July 28, 2018. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

Mark Scolforo

A US Roman Catholic diocese has identified 71 members of the church who had been accused of child sex abuse and said it was holding accountable the bishops who led the church for the past 70 years.

It announced their names will be stripped from all church properties.

The Harrisburg list includes 37 priests, three deacons and six seminarians from the diocese, nine clergy members from other dioceses and 16 from religious communities.

The bishop said the conduct was classified as indecent behaviour, inappropriate behaviour such as kissing and inappropriate communication with children.

At a news conference to detail the church's actions, Harrisburg Bishop Ronald Gainer apologised to those who were abused, the Catholic faithful and the community and expressed his "profound sorrow".

"Many of those victimised as children continue to suffer as survivors from the harm they experienced," said the bishop, who was appointed in 2014.

With its announcement, the Harrisburg Diocese became the second of six dioceses under investigation by the state to get out in front of a pending grand jury report on clergy sex abuse.

The Erie Diocese released its own findings on clergy abuse in April.

The release of the nearly 900-page state grand jury report has been held up by challenges by some priests and former priests.

The state Supreme Court ruled last week a version with some names blacked out can be made public as early as next week.

The court said it identified more than 300 "predator priests" in the six dioceses.

The bishop said the Harrisburg Diocese was making public the names of all those who faced allegations of child sex abuse but that it did not determine whether they all had merit, though some of those on the list have been convicted of crimes.

He said no one on the list is currently in the ministry.

In a public letter, the bishop said shortcomings in past investigations and record-keeping made it difficult in many cases to assess credibility or guilt or even determine the underlying conduct.

In a few instances, people who were cleared of allegations by the diocese or police were not listed.

Most of the allegations date from the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, the diocese said.

The bishop said church leadership had failed to protect children by not adequately responding to all the allegations of sexual misconduct over the years.

The diocese is compiling a list of buildings and other properties named to honour clergy members and plans to remove the names of anyone accused of abuse, including all bishops going back to 1947.

The church also is waiving any confidentiality rights the diocese obtained while reaching abuse settlements over the years, the bishop said.

The number of such settlements and their dollar values were not disclosed.

The church is adopting a series of new procedures to deal with complaints and to help protect against future abuse, the bishop said.

Press Association

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