Diocese of Greensburg issues apology for past failings, promises to release names of accused priests

Greensburg, Pa., Aug 10, 2018 / 10:00 am (CNA).- The Diocese of Greensburg has issued an apology and pledged to release the names of priests accused of sexual misconduct over the last 70 years. The names will be released following the publication of the Pennsylvania grand jury report on sexual abuse allegations in six Catholic dioceses, expected within the next week.

The diocese published a 17-page document on Thursday August 9, apologizing for past failures by the Church to protect children, and explaining the steps the diocese has taken to prevent future abuse.

“Admittedly, there have been occasions where the Church and the Diocese of Greensburg have faltered in their protection of children, young people, and vulnerable adults. For those, the Diocese of Greensburg apologizes to the survivors and their families and continually offers assistance to help them heal,” said the document.

In a letter included in the document, Bishop Edward Malesic wrote that while terrible mistakes had been made, the Church had learned from them.

“The people of the Diocese of Greensburg should know that we have learned from the mistakes made in the past,” he wrote.

The bishop also emphasised that the the Church remained active in its local ministries, and that much good work was being done serving the poor and the sick, and preaching the Gospel.

“I can assure you that the Church in the Diocese of Greensburg today has evolved far beyond the Church described in media reports. One of the safest places to be as a young person today is the Catholic Church.”

Malesic has led the diocese since July of 2015. The Diocese of Greensburg was founded in 1951, four years after the beginning of the period covered by the grand jury investigation.

The diocese also announced it will provide free counseling for all survivors of abuse by church personnel, regardless of where it happened or when it happened, and encourages any survivors to come forward, even if their abuser is not named in the eventual report.

The diocese said that some of the names to be released “may be familiar,” as their cases were made public and were covered by the media. None of the priests listed in the report are serving in public ministry, Bishop Malesic told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Greensburg joins the Dioceses of Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, and Erie in pro-actively releasing a statement or list of names ahead of the official release of the grand jury report.

Harrisburg and Erie have already released the names of men accused of abuse, misconduct, or other inappropriate activity in documents on their websites. Both Pittsburgh and Greensburg said they intend to wait for the report to be released before they make their lists public. 

The grand jury report follows an lengthy investigation of child sexual abuse or the covering up of child sexual abuse by priests, deacons, seminarians, or laypersons within six Pennsylvania Catholic dioceses over the last 70 years. The report, which is over 800 pages long, reportedly names approximately 300 priests accused of abuse or of covering up abuse.

The investigation has already resulted in the conviction of one priest from the Diocese of Greensburg, John Sweeney, for the sexual assault of a 10-year-old student during the 1991-92 school year. That priest was removed from ministry in 2016 before his arrest in 2017.

The Diocese of Greensburg said information about this case was not immediately made public at the request of law enforcement, although it was made clear to the priest that he was being removed from ministry due to allegations of child sexual abuse. The diocese stressed that normally such information would be immediately released to the public. The diocese also said it had “fully cooperated” with the grand jury investigation.

“The Diocese of Greensburg is saddened by our past failures — grievous failures — and we are horrified by the conduct that we ourselves would have never condoned and committed by men who, in many cases, many of us never knew,” said the document.

“But, we are also aware that our Diocese has moved forward from this past and evolved in combatting this evil, and we are proud of the work that we have undertaken over the last 30 years to establish a safe environment for our children and our youth in the Diocese of Greensburg.”

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ordered that the grand jury report be published no later than August 14.

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