Bishop: More Victims Came Forward
SCRANTON — Since a statewide investigating grand jury report released in August laid bare decades of child sexual abuse at the hands of hundreds of priests and the subsequent diocesan cover-ups across Pennsylvania, nearly 30 additional victims have come forward in the Diocese of Scranton, Bishop Joseph C. Bambera said Saturday.
The claims these new victims have made have primarily been against the priests already identified by the diocese and the grand jury, but allegations have surfaced against another priest, Bambera told reporters following Mass at the diocesan pastoral center on Wyoming Avenue.
Diocese spokesman William Genello clarified that the newly identified priest is deceased. The allegations that were made, the nature of which were unknown Saturday, have not been fully investigated and deemed credible, so the diocese has not yet taken the step of publicly identifying who this priest was.
The comments came during a briefing with reporters following Mass observing a time of “atonement and healing” Saturday, the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows.
During the Mass, led by Bambera, the bishop devoted the entirety of his nearly 15 minute homily to addressing the abuse scandal that has roiled the Roman Catholic Church. Bambera said the abuse has been one of the darkest moments in the diocese’s history and arguably one of the darkest in the history of the church.
“The church let you down,” Bambera said. “And you deserved better.”
Addressing the victims of sexual abuse, some of whom may have been in the pastoral center, he said, Bambera stressed that his apologies are not hollow words uttered only because they are the right things to say at the moment. He said his heart breaks for the faithful priests and deacons who are tarnished by the sins of others and encouraged those currently studying to become priests.
“You are not part of the problem,” Bambera said. “You are part of the solution.”
The grand jury targeted 301 religious leaders in six Pennsylvania dioceses, including 59 in the Diocese of Scranton. The actual number is higher. As the report was released, the diocese named 70 accused abusers, which included priests unmentioned in the grand jury report as well as nonpriests.
In the Scranton diocese, which is comprised of 11 counties, the accused priests groomed, molested and had sex with minors, and bishops and diocesan administrators who found out about it allowed the priests to continue ministering to the public.
The grand jury report was especially critical of former Bishop James C. Timlin for his handling of sexual abuse cases and Bambera has since permanently barred Timlin from representing the diocese in public.
Speaking to reporters, Bambera stressed that the diocese continues to build upon checks and balances they’ve established over the last 15 years to make sure reports of child abuse are handled seriously. “As fragile and as broken” as the church’s leaders are, the power of the church is rooted in something deeper and Bambera urged the faithful, and those whose faith has been shaken, to look beyond the flaws.
“Not to look at me or at the leaders of the church but to look at the core of what we believe as Christians,” Bambera said.
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