Roman Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg releases list of accused abusers, plan to combat child abuse

LOWER PAXTON TOWNSHIP, DAUPHIN COUNTY, Pa. --- The Roman Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg is releasing a list of 72 names of clergy members who, at one point, served within the church and were accused of child sex abuse.

The list is based on the church's paper and electronic records going back to 1947.

Bishop Ronald Gainer said they're looking to detail "very sad moments in the church's history."

"In my own name and in the name of Diocesan Church of Harrisburg, I express profound sorrow and I apologize to the survivors of child sex abuse, to the Catholic faithful and to the general public for the abuses that took place and for those church officials who failed to protect children," said Gainer.

It's a list he said has long awaited release.

Church officials say it's a list of accusations, not an assessment of credibility or guilt.

It's broken up into three categories:

1. Clergy with allegations against them while they were alive

2. Clergy with allegations against them after they had died.

3. Clergy who had allegations outside the Diocese of Harrisburg.

Bishop Gainer said the list was finished in September 2016 but were told to refrain from releasing the list by the Office of the Attorney General during the on-going grand jury investigation.

"Now, with the investigation at an end and the Supreme Court having issued a stay pending further review, we thought it was appropriate for us to provide to the public a list of clergy with allegations of abuse against them," said Gainer.

Bishop Gainer is also directing the removal of any names on the list, as well as any bishops, that appear on buildings, facilities or room in the diocese.

The exception being Bishop McDevitt High School because they found no records of allegations against Bishop Philip McDevitt during his tenure and the grand jury report's cut-off date of 1947 is 12 year's after his death. (EDIT: A previous version of this story referred to John McDevitt. Updates made on 8/1/18 at 11:25 p.m. )

"I strongly believe that leaders of the diocese must hold themselves to a higher standard and must yield honorary symbols in the interest of healing," said Gainer.

The Diocese of Harrisburg is also waiving confidentiality rights they hold in any settlement agreements they made with abuse victims.

Bishop Gainer said they want to "free" any survivors to tell their stories.

"I hope that this step will further aid those survivors, and perhaps, others, in their path to healing," said Gainer.

A new website is launching that will contain a list of accused abusers.

It will also contain victim's assistance, reporting abuse and further education.

Bishop Gainer said the church is rolling out a five step plan to combat abuse:

1. Any future complaints will be immediately turned over to local authorities
2. They will screen employees with multiple background checks to make sure no one has a background of abuse.
3. They will teach students about safety measures...Including age-appropriate abuse awareness programs
4. They will require all clergy, employee and volunteers to complete a state approved online training program on recognizing and reporting child abuse
5. They will supply i-d badges for people who complete the diocese youth protection program

He is also encouraging any survivors who experienced abuse while a member of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg to come forward.

Editor's Note: The Roman Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg announced August 6 that a name has been added to the list, bringing the total to 72 names.