HARRISBURG, Pa. (ChurchMilitant.com) – Pennsylvania bishops cared more about avoiding scandal than protecting victims — this according to the Pennsylvania grand jury report, set for release as early as August 8.
A court filing made public Friday reveals Bp. Donald Trautman of Erie was one among two dozen clergy who filed to block release of the report, considered the most sweeping investigation into clerical sex abuse in American history. The 880-page report offers findings from six dioceses: Erie, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, Scranton, Allentown and Greensburg.
The main thing was not to help children, but to avoid ‘scandal.’ Tweet
In the court document, Trautman admits that continuing to block release of the report “could further injure victims of abuse,” and so withdrew his appeal — but only on condition that certain accusations leveled against bishops in the report did not apply to him, namely:
- “all of [the victims] were brushed aside, in every part of the state, by church leaders who preferred to protect the abusers and their institution above all”
- “The main thing was not to help children, but to avoid ‘scandal'”
- “Priests were raping little boys and girls and the men of God who were responsible for them not only did nothing: they hid it all”
- “Diocesan administrators, including the Bishops, had knowledge of this conduct and yet priests were regularly placed in ministry after the Diocese was on notice that a complaint of child sexual abuse had been made. This conduct enabled offenders and endangered the welfare of children”
- “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 quotes shed light on the nature and scope of the findings, which include at least 300 named priests. So far, it’s known that 64 come from Erie, 71 from Harrisburg and at least 90 are named from Pittsburgh (nearly one third of the total number). Bishops Lawrence Persico of Erie and Ronald Gainer of Harrisburg publicly released the list of names themselves, while an attorney for an accused Pittsburgh priest revealed the number of priests named from that diocese.
Gainer announced last week he was stripping every Church building of the names of all bishops since 1947, all of them complicit in shielding sexual predators. The move only came, however, after media pressure.
In response to Gainer’s announcement, spokesman Joe Grace of the Pennsylvania attorney general’s office said, “It is long past due for the Diocese of Harrisburg to make public the names of predator priests within the Catholic Church. Their proclamations today only come after intense public pressure and in the face of the imminent release of the Grand Jury report exposing decades of child abuse and cover up.”
“To this point, the Diocese of Harrisburg has been adverse to transparency and has not been cooperative,” he added. “A now public opinion by the judge supervising the grand jury last year made it clear they sought to end the investigation entirely.”
The dioceses of Pittsburgh and Greensburg won’t follow the lead of Erie or Harrisburg, however, refusing to release the names of accused priests until publication of the report.
It’s widely expected that the name of Cdl. Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, D.C. and former bishop of Pittsburgh (1988–2006), will make an appearance in the grand jury report, as he was named in multiple lawsuits during his tenure there alleging conspiracy to cover up sex abuse, and had a history of placing accused priests back in active ministry or failing to report them to law enforcement.
Trautman was bishop of Erie from 1990–2011, and championed the cause of progressive liturgy. He opposed the traditional reforms of Pope Benedict, critical of his motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, which gave universal permission for priests to offer Mass in the old rite. As chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy, he spearheaded the use of more “inclusive” language in liturgical texts. His revised, “inclusive” version of the Roman Missal was ultimately rejected by Rome in 1998.
EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on ChurchMilitant.com.