Pittsburgh bishop to release names of accused priests

shutterstock 1121033426 St. Paul's Catherdral, Pittsburgh. | Tupungato_Shutterstock

The Bishop of Pittsburgh has pledged to release the names of all priests of the diocese accused of abuse against a minor. He made the announcement Sunday, August 5, in a letter read at every Mass in the diocese.

Bishop David Zubik also encouraged abuse survivors who had not yet come forward to do so.

The announcement comes shortly before the publication of a 900-page grand jury report on sexual abuse allegation in six Pennsylvania dioceses - Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, and Scranton.

Zubik said the grand jury report will be a "sad and tragic description of events that occurred within the Church."

The report is believed to detail allegations of widespread sexual abuse and cover-ups within the dioceses over the last 70 years. It is expected to be released later this week and to contain the names of approximately 300 individuals suspected of abuse or of covering up abuse.

The report was initially scheduled for publication at the end of June, but delayed following legal challenges by some of those named in it.

After initially staying the release, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ordered that a partially redacted version be published no later than August 14. Sources have told CNA that the Pennsylvania dioceses are expecting it to be released on Wednesday, August 8.

Bishop Zubik said that the Diocese of Pittsburgh had "fully cooperated" with the state's attorney general and has not tried to block publication of the report.

The full list of accused clergy from Pittsburgh will be released after the grand jury report, Zubik explained, "out of respect for the work of the grand jury and the process outlined by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania." Other dioceses in the state, including Harrisburg, have already released lists of priests, deacons, and seminarians who were accused of abuse or misconduct during the past seven decades.

In the letter, Zubik told parishioners that more than 90 percent of abuse claims occurred before 1990. The period investigated by the state's attorney general includes the period when Cardinal Donald Wuerl served as Bishop of Pittsburgh. Wuerl was bishop of Pittsburgh from 1988 until 2006, when he was appointed the Archbishop of Washington.

Over the past 30 years, Zubik said, the Diocese of Pittsburgh has implemented new policies "to respond quickly and compassionately" when abuse victims come forward.

"We respond to allegations today very differently than decades ago," said Zubik.

Now, when a credible allegation is made, the priest or deacon is immediately suspended from ministry, law enforcement is informed, and his name is released. Additionally, all employees and volunteers within the diocese undergo a background check and receive training on how to prevent and identify sexual abuse.

There are no priests or deacons serving now in public ministry in the Diocese of Pittsburgh who have been accused of sexually abusing a child, Zubik said.

By releasing the names of the alleged abusers, Zubik hopes that this will strengthen the trust of the faithful. In the past, the bishop said that he "truly believed" that giving names to law enforcement was "appropriate and sufficient action," but now believes in the need for increased transparency on behalf of the diocese.

"Every act of child sexual abuse is horrific, no matter how long ago it occurred," said Zubik.

He asked Pittsburgh Catholics to join him in praying for abuse survivors and their loved ones, as well as for the "vast majority of dedicated priests and deacons who bear the shame and the pain of the worst deeds of their peers."

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