Pennsylvania prelate says bishops who hid abuse should resign

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. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)  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. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

WASHINGTON (CNS) — In an Aug. 16 interview with Eternal Word Television Network, Erie Bishop Lawrence T. Persico said the only way to regain the trust of the laity after decades-long claims of sexual abuse by priests and others at six Pennsylvania dioceses is by deeds and one of those deeds may mean getting rid of bishops who hid abusers.

During a report on EWTN’s evening show, reporter Jason Calvi asks him: “Should bishops who knew about or covered up abuse resign?”

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“I think they should,” Bishop Persico answered. “I think we need complete transparency if we’re going to get the trust of the people back. We have to be able to demonstrate it.”

 “I think we need complete transparency if we’re going to get the trust of the people back,” said Erie Bishop Lawrence T. Persico.

Bishop Persico was the only bishop who met in person with members of a grand jury investigating decades-long claims of abuse at six Pennsylvania dioceses. In an explosive report, the grand jury said it identified more than 1,000 who said they were victimized as children by priests and other church workers in the state.

“I’ve been saying, we can talk about transparency and truth, but much is going to depend upon our deeds, how do we carry that transparency out and how do we act moving forward?” he said during the TV interview. “That’s going to be key to all of this and we have to show that we mean what we’re saying.”

Bishop Persico’s Diocese of Erie, as well as the dioceses of Harrisburg, Allentown, Scranton, Pittsburgh and Greensburg were named in the report released Aug. 14 after an investigation of almost two years.

A grand jury does not determine guilt or innocence but whether there may be enough evidence or probable cause to support a criminal charge. Almost all of the cases in the report were too old for charges to be filed and many of the 301 priests named are dead or no longer in ministry. But Catholic laity have been insisting on some form for accountability for those who may have known of and hidden the abuse.

“We need this transparency and we also need action, so that if there were other bishops or leaders that were negligent, then they need to be removed because the more we cover up, the less credibility we have,” Bishop Persico said.

He said it was important to note that the report documented 70 years of abuse, most of it from 1970s into the 1990s. Following the sex abuse crisis in 2000 in the U.S., the country’s bishops in 2002 approved procedures and protocols for addressing allegations of abuse.

“There’s less [abuse]” since then, Bishop Persico said, “but we still have to be on guard.”

In an interview with CNN's “New Day” news show Aug. 17, Bishop Timothy L. Doherty of Lafayette in Indiana, who is chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People, answered questions about how it was possible that given the procedures and protocols set in 2002, abuse seems to continue.

As allegations of sexual abuse by former Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick came light this summer, the procedures have come under fire because they contained no provisions for holding bishops accountable, leading many to ask whether they were enough because the church continues to deal with similar situations.

“I think all the bishops are asking that question and part of it is, there isn’t a great explanation,” said Bishop Doherty on the news show. “We’re still looking at the facts here. I could speak for bishops of my era and I know we came in without knowing much about this and having a great trust in our church and people that we work with, and so this is devastating.”

But because this has come out in the public, “a light has been shined on part of the culture that allowed this to happen and there is a great resolve not to let it happen again,” he said.

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Lisa Weber
1 year ago

I think Bishop Persico is right - bishops and cardinals who hid abusers should resign. And it would be nice if the bishops in that category did not wait to be called out before resigning.

LuAnn O'Connell
1 year ago

I agree, just many of those in other institutions have resigned, they should as well to help restore trust. And this whole scandal raises the issue of women priests as far fewer women engage in pedophilia.

Gary Sullivan
1 year ago

Amen!

Krzysztof Ciuba
1 year ago

Another sign of the...End (Ap21:22): no more need for Church@sacraments; the signs all over the Earth (in UN, Mass Media, Akademia) the idiocy runs all (almost) Institutions including Vatican since....1998, Fides et Ratio of JPII (also with some tiny mistakes from Tradition's interpretation like a "mystery" of Trinity understood globally still as the folly of "1=3"+St.Anselm's ridiculous argument) though all truth (almost) available even on Internet websites in order to know directly (!) God (his will) without "preachers" and "professors"(J6:45). An amazing eschatological age! More details (data, persons -"reverend ones", institutions, courts cases and Police interventions,articles) on demand.

lurline jennings
1 year ago

Saying we are sorry be it privately, corporately or screaming it to the mountains will make no difference. In this time of clamoring that now exists who will hear the words? We heard words in 2002 but obviously little changed. What causes these problems in the church? What causes the same problems in the public schools? No priests there. This is not just a church wide problem it seems to be a worldwide problem. When we watched Fr. Matt Malones presentation on this subject we were impressed with the statements made. Logical statements. The pain on his face was exquisite reflecting the pain felt by many of us. Being sorry won't bring any relief either to the abused, not to the abusers. not those who ignored the problems and will certainly not resolve this problem for any of our consecrated. All religious will be examined in the light of this exposition again as it has happened before. The innocent will be blamed and the actions will go on without restriction. The laws and rules were made in 2002 but much was ignored. Especially the oversight by the hierarchy of the church. Adding more rules, laws, projects will do no good. Act upon what has already been written and accepted. Revise that which is no longer valid. Let the real truth be heard. Let each bishop, cardinal, priest, deacon examine their place in this problem and face it head on. There are good rules in place let them be enforced. Then, let us pray that the Holy Spirit will enter in and save this church. It was promised that not even the gates of hell will not prevail against it. Let we the faithful, the children of God, The Church, see that a new beginning has been handed to us. Let us use this opportunity to restore The Church to glory and open its compassionate doors wide to all who enter in. Let all of us continue to pray in earnest to be forgiven and enter a new and better future.

Monica DeAngelis
1 year ago

Very sporting of you, Bishop Persico. You were only ordained bishop in 2012, so it's easy for you to hang your fellow bishops out to dry. What exactly were you doing in the years before becoming bishop that qualifies you to throw them under the bus? Did you protect children against known offenders in your diocese? Did you report offenders to your bishop and call the police?
Or did you sit around and pad your resume so you could become part of the problem?

charles jordan
1 year ago

Very good questions.
All the questions point to the systemic problem of clericalism that still guides presbyters and bishops today. Even if benign clerics are not the cause of grave harm they nevertheless supported an institution that clearly has been very very slow to avail itself of reform.
- Even good bishops should today lead a penitential life all through the episcopacy in atonement for the systemic, or committed harm caused previous holders of their office. That is, even a bishop sent to a diocese even an hundred years from now should lead such a penitential life. The heads of the domestic churches in each diocese would mentor bishops in their penance.

Jack Feehily
1 year ago

If you have knowledge of facts which implicate Persico as part of the coverup before he became a bishop, disclose it. Otherwise refrain from vilifying a man who was praised by the grand jury. We don’t need advice from those who want to see the institutional church destroyed. I want it reformed radically.

Tim O'Leary
1 year ago

Monica - this comment is very unfortunate, as it suggests you are just anti-clerical or anti-Church rather than desirous of a reform. I strongly welcome any bishop to come forward and support resignation of any complicit bishop,

Erin B
1 year ago

From Pope Francis' letter: "This is clearly seen in a peculiar way of understanding the Church’s authority, one common in many communities where sexual abuse and the abuse of power and conscience have occurred. Such is the case with clericalism, an approach that 'not only nullifies the character of Christians, but also tends to diminish and undervalue the baptismal grace that the Holy Spirit has placed in the heart of our people'. Clericalism, whether fostered by priests themselves or by lay persons, leads to an excision in the ecclesial body that supports and helps to perpetuate many of the evils that we are condemning today. To say 'no' to abuse is to say an emphatic 'no' to all forms of clericalism."

Michael Barberi
1 year ago

A grand jury determines if there is probably cause to indict. While the statues of limitations of these sexual abuse crimes have pasted, the US Conference of Bishops must investigate the evidence and determine if any priest or bishop is found guilty of these accusations. If so, they must defrock the priest involved and found guilty. Also they should recommend to Pope Francis to defrock any bishop who participated in a coverup and moved sexual abusive priests around their diocese only to sexual abuse again. This includes Bishop Wuerl who was promoted to Cardinal.

Let's see how the US Conference of Bishops and Pope Francis will handle this problem.

J. Calpezzo
1 year ago

Amen

J. Calpezzo
1 year ago

Amen

J. Calpezzo
1 year ago

Amen

Jim Byrum
1 year ago

The only real solution is infusion of lay and religious Catholics into all church function, oversight, and leadership. Anything less is the continuation of the secret clerical culture now clearly shown to be intrinsically disordered and inherently evil. #ReformationNow

rose-ellen caminer
1 year ago

I agree that the secret clerical culture has been shown to be intrinsically disordered and evil. And an infusion of lay Catholics is in order. But a caveat; if you think that lay people are a panacea against sexual or other misconduct including systemic misconduct in the Church ,or in any institution, you are naïve! [Who's watching the watchers? , an infinite regress]?When it comes to sex, who was it who said, we are crucified in sex? We, humans beings, whether in the church and out of the church, otherwise compassionate even selfless and halfway decent, even sincerely pious, always have and always will be.

The good thing about having a clerical hierarchy, at least theoretically , is that with a clerical hierarchy people can be held accountable. If the whole structure is corrupt, then that is obviously a problem but theoretically in a clerical hierarchy there is always accountability to someone else and some degree of professionalism; in having ethical standards and norms a clergy person must adhere to[sounds funny I know] and in knowledge of the faith. Clergy are educated and responsible to their superior,r whereas lay people have no superiors or are not necessarily knowledgeable or believers of all the tenets of the faith. They can defy the teachings of the Church with impunity as they are not part of a hierarchy. You can have a cabal of lay people who believe that abortion is justified say, and if they are in charge of the clergy, they will prevail in teaching this to their flock. Clergy objection be damned; we're in charge here now and you clergy serve at OUR pleasure and at OUR discretion, the lay people will have the authority to say. Having the laity be the leaders of the professional , accountable clergy turns the church on its head. It may be a quick fix when like today the structure has become corrupt, but as a permanent fix it poses a danger to the authentic teachings as well as to responsible accountability of the Church.[I think]

Tim O'Leary
1 year ago

As father Dominic Legge, O.P. wrote "Hand-wringing and pious platitudes won’t fix things. It is time to confront the real problem with courage and sobriety." Here are his recommendations to cleanse the church. https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2018/08/cleansing-the-church-of-clerical-sacrilege

rose-ellen caminer
1 year ago

The real problem is that this corruption was allowed to exist because there WAS a time when homosexuality was taboo in society AND when an act of pedophilia was considered either a minor lapse or an illness that one could recover from. THIS latter was believed by the secular authorities. Many or enough gay people entered the church either to sublimate or deny their sexuality, or to engage in it with other people like themselves.[ I don't know what the mindset of pedophiles who entered the priesthood was; uncontrolled impulses followed by remorse till next time the impulse took, or calculated from the get go] . What more natural a setting then an all male clergy! for homosexuals to find refuge from the condemning world. So if we are people of faith let's take this into account. The culture today has changed, and so naturally this pedophilia and sex abuse and cover up that was so pervasive will naturally abate as gay people need not find a safe harbor in the male clergy, and as pedophilia is now recognized for what it is; an intrinsic disorder with no cure. And what was once sincerely believed by many to not be so harmful to the victims, is now recognized as a horrific abuse .All the abusers and covering up bishops or most of them as most of these abuses took place decades ago when they were part of mindset are now either dead, or old .The new crop of priests and bishops are equipped with knowledge about pedophilia and live in a world where gays need not hide or sublimate. With knowledge should come forgiveness , on our part .And less hysteria. To clamor for massive resignations, prison terms for all etc., etc., when the clergy then was fallout for what the culture at large was is to lack compassion and to deny that we as a culture fell short.
You people of God , You people of faith; what faith told you that only lay people sinned! You are no better then they are in your hysterical condemnation. You strut your "Christian compassion",your faith, when you virtue signal you forgive the cold blooded killer, but a spiritually poor disturbed pedophile who likes to grope kids or fondle them , or gay man in a time of persecution of gays, and the bishops who had true empathy for them and who sincerely did not recognize the great harm done to child victims you have nothing but vengeance for! This is why, from the preponderance of comments , I don't trust a lay people take over of the church; you jump on bandwagons and have no insight and your Christian compassion, and forgiveness excludes people you really hate!

A Fielder
1 year ago

Rose-Ellen, you make some good points, but I wish you would not conflate gay people with pedophiles. You argue for fairness and to consider context before making blanket condemnations, but you do not apply the same reasonable standards to your own smearing of gay men.

alan macdonald
1 year ago

Archbishop Wuerl, the phone is for you. It is Rome.

J. Calpezzo
1 year ago

Resign? I say throw them in a Vatican dungeon with a picture of JPII and let them reflect on their sins while being flogged.

dechardin2000@google
1 year ago

i agree,,,

J. Calpezzo
1 year ago

Roger Mahony still wears the red hat.

John Chuchman
1 year ago

Did any not?

John Eise
1 year ago

All priests, bishops, cardinals, and popes that either committed or covered up sexual abuse should be defrocked and thrown out of the Catholic Church. I believe that sainthood for John Paul II should be revoked. He refused to believe that there was sexual abuse in the Catholic Church at first and even when the U.S. bishops and cardinals flew to Rome to make it clear to him - he still did nothing. He is as much to blame for the continued sexual abuse problem in the Catholic Church and does not deserve to be called a Saint by any definition.

Danny Collins
1 year ago

Starting with Wuerl, Tobin, Farrell, and Maradiaga!!!

Haidee Swanby
1 year ago

What kind of man knows that children are being molested by his peers and does nothing? They should be defrocked and criminally charged if possible

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