Diocese of Harrisburg hosting “listening sessions” on Grand Jury Report

HARRISBURG, Pa. -- The Roman Catholic Diocese Of Harrisburg announces "listening sessions" to hear what people have to say about sex abuse in the church.

Officials say it's in an effort to be more transparent after the Grand Jury Report released this summer named more than 300 priests accused of sexual abuse, including 71 in the Diocese of Harrisburg.

The sessions will take place over the next two months at different parishes across Central Pennsylvania.

Here's what FOX43 knows:

  • Bishop Ronald Gainer will be at all 9 of the meetings.
  • The diocese won't allow audio or video recordings so people can feel comfortable speaking their minds. It's unclear right now if reporters will be allowed to bring a pen and paper for notes.
  • A spokeswoman says it's about creating a safe space for parishioners.

For some survivors of sexual abuse, the decision to step back inside a Catholic church could be very difficult.

"Some survivors are not comfortable ever walking back into a Catholic church," explained Jennifer Storm, a state-appointed victim's advocate. "A lot of what I'm hearing is the lack of transparency from the church."

"Bishop Gainer really wants to get out, really meet with his flock, the parishioners from parishes throughout the dioceses,  hear their concerns, answer their questions, and really speak to them one on one about where we're at today, the steps we have taken to protect our youth, and where we're going in the future," said Rachel Bryson, a spokeswoman for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg.

Storm hopes the diocese is prepared to hear more than words.

"I think they need to be ready for the emotion, and be open, which is hard. It's hard to be on the receiving end of pain, anger, and hurt, and I think they need to be prepared for that," she explained.

Storm says there is support available for any survivors who want to attend a session.

"Please don't go alone. There are advocates, there are rape crisis counselors, individuals in your community that are willing to go with you," she said.

If you would like to find an advocate to go with you to a session, Storm says you can contact the Office of the Victim Advocate.

Toll Free: 800.563.6399
Fax: 717.787.0867
TTY: 877.349.1064
Email OVA at : ra-ovainfo@pa.gov

Here is a list of the "listening sessions":

Date Deanery Location Time
Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019 Dauphin Saint Catherine Laboure Parish
4000 Derry Street
Harrisburg, PA
7:00 p.m.
Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2019 Adams Saint Joseph Parish
5055 Grandview Road
Hanover, PA
7:00 p.m.
Monday, Jan. 21, 2019 Cumberland/Perry Saint Joseph Parish
410 East Simpson Street
Mechanicsburg, PA
7:00 p.m.
Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019 Lebanon Saint Cecilia Parish Hall
750 State Drive
Lebanon, PA
7:00 p.m.
Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2019 North/South Lancaster Saint Leo the Great Parish
2427 Marietta Avenue
Lancaster, PA
6:30 p.m.
Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019 Northern Immaculate Conception Parish
1730 Fowler Avenue
Berwick, PA
6:30 p.m.
Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019 Northumberland Queen of the Most Holy Rosary Parish
599 W Center St
Elysburg, PA
6:30 p.m.
Monday, Feb. 25, 2019 Franklin Corpus Christi Parish
320 Philadelphia Avenue
Chambersburg, PA
6:30 p.m.
Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019 York Saint Rose of Lima Parish
950 West Market Street
York, PA
7:00 p.m.

People can email their questions to Bishop Gainer at AskBishopGainer@hbgdiocese.org. 

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