Diocese of Harrisburg officials reflect on one-year mark of releasing list of accused clergy

HARRISBURG, Pa. --- One year ago Thursday, Bishop Ronald Gainer and the Diocese of Harrisburg revealed decades of sexual abuse allegations against priests, deacons and seminarians.

Bishop Gainer apologized to survivors, "the Catholic faithful," and "the general public" for the abuse and the inaction by past Diocese leadership.

The list includes more than 70 names of clergymen, nearly 30 more than its counterpart in the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report that was released roughly two weeks after the Diocese of Harrisburg released its list.

Mike Barley, a spokesperson for the Diocese of Harrisburg, said they believe their decision came at the right time after compiling all of the known names accused, trying to show transparency as the Grand Jury Report loomed.

“We felt it was important to get that information out to the public because we had failed. The church had failed to do its job in the past," said Barley.

In the days that have followed, the Diocese of Harrisburg has taken efforts to make sure something like this doesn't happen again.

Barley listed new policies within the Diocese, such as two adults per child supervising if they're only, immediate reporting to law enforcement instead of "self-investigations" by the church, and the formation of its Youth Protection Program.

The Diocese of Harrisburg has also attempted to make amends to child sex abuse survivors, with Barley mentioning nine listening sessions, saying they will ensure mental health expenses "forever," and the formation of the Survivor Compensation Program.

The deadline for survivors to accept compensation offers ended last week.

“We hope it helps some of those folks as they work to move forward," said Barley.

Barley said the Diocese of Harrisburg will continue to evolve with its efforts, saying "the book isn't closed" one year later.

“It’s going to take a long process to rebuild the trust that was eroded from those decisions that were made in the past," Barley said.

Also in the wake of the release of the list, there have been pushes for statute of limitations reform in the commonwealth.

Two House Bills, 962 and 963, were both passed in April and propose two different routes.

House Bill 963 aims to make a two-year retroactive window constitutional through the amendment process to answer critics that say the window is unconstitutional.

The other bill, 962, created by state Representative Mark Rozzi (D-Berks) eliminates the criminal statute of limitation while also raising the civil statute from age 30 to 55.

He said the main goal of survivors is to have a day in court.

“You just want to be able to move forward and get past this and find out the truth and why this happened to you? And who allowed it to happen to you?” said Rep. Rozzi.

The statute of limitations reform package awaits a potential debate in the state senate, which Rozzi said he hopes will be discussed this upcoming session.

As a survivor of clergy abuse, himself, Rozzi said it's a "roller coaster" that never ends.

“They can compensate us, they can give us therapy but it’s never going to take the pain away from us, what we feel, and how we react to certain situations where the only people we trust is ourselves," said Rozzi.

Barley said the Diocese of Harrisburg supports "99 percent" of the statute of limitations reform proposals while still reserving concerns for a retroactive civil window.

Barley said the Diocese is finalizing a report on the survivor compensation program, which he says will add "a couple" names to their list.

Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.