Response from our Bishop

Posted On November 4, 2020

 

MAY 03, 2019

 

OFr’ICE OF THE BISHOP

 

DIOCESE OF SCRANTON

300 WYOMING AVENIJE

SCRANTON, PENNSYLVANIA 18503 -1279

April 3, 2019

 

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Ciaccia:

Thank you for your recent letter. Please accept this letter in response.

Your letter seems premised on the notion that the Diocese of Scranton and I have been lacking in dealing with allegations of child sexual abuse and related issues. While I have repeatedly, publicly acknowledged that the Diocese has fallen short in the past, I have also explained that, over at least the last twenty-five years, the Diocese has continuously improved in this arena and that, since at least 2002, the Diocese has been at the forefront nationwide on this issue.

The Diocese’s handling of allegations of child sexual abuse is “state of the art.” Within 24 hours of receiving an allegation of abuse, the Diocese vigilantly and transparently responds. First, the Diocese immediately calls law enforcement to report the allegation. That initial verbal report is followed-up by letter to the District Attorney. The Diocese also immediately reports the allegation to the appropriate child protective services agency. Where the allegation appears credible, the Diocese also immediately removes the accused priest from ministry pending further investigation. The Diocese provides support and assistance to the victim, including arranging and paying for counseling from mental health professionals with no affiliation to the Diocese. Finally, when a priest is removed from ministry after investigation, the Diocese notifies the community of the allegation and the resulting removal in the following ways: 1) in person at the parish(s) or school(s) where the accused was posted; 2) in writing to the local media; ,m<l 3) by publication::;,-, the Diocese’s website and in the Diocese’s newspaper, the Catholic Light.

You no doubt noticed that the vast majority of abusive conduct (more than 90%) detailed in the Grand Jury Report pre-dates 2002. This is not a coincidence. It demonstrates both the sincerity of the Diocese’s efforts and their efficacy.

The Diocese’ s commitment to transparency is similarly unrivaled. In 2016, I ordered the Diocese to provide the District Attorneys for the eleven counties in which the Diocese operates with a comprehensive list of all cases involving allegations of child sexual abuse against any cleric or lay employee of the Diocese. The comprehensive list (which spanned the Diocese’s entire recorded history) also disclosed substantial relevant information about the allegations, the status of the accused and the resolution of the matter. The list was provided before the 40 th Statewide

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Grand Jury was empaneled and before the Diocese had any inkling that it was to be subjected to an inquiry. We are not aware of any other Diocese that provided a similar list to so many civil authorities.

You note in your letter that my decisions “impact the safety and spiritual life of our children.” I am well aware of that fact. I have acted in full awareness of and service to that fact since my ordination over thirty-five years ago. Rest assured, the Diocese’s children are safe.

Within that Context, I turn to your specific questions involving three cases. Any suggestion that I have avoided these cases, or that my conduct in these matters is inappropriate, is simply wrong. I have explained my role in these matters to the Grand Jurors, in the press, and to parishioners. I stand behind the actions and decisions that I took in these matters. The simple answer to your questions is that, in each case, I did what I could and what I thought was appropriate, based on the information available to me and in keeping with my then-current role in the Diocese. Blessed with hindsight, there are elements of these cases that I would have approached differently. Short of that, however, I acted at all times in good faith and have nothing to hide. Of course, the Diocese and I remain committed to learning from the past and in creating a better future. I hope that you will join us in this critical task.

 

I wish you well in all of your endeavors.

Faithfully yours in Christ,

Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, D.D., J.C.L.,

Bishop Of Scranton

 

 

c: Monsignor Thomas M. Muldowney, V.G.

 

Paul Ciaccia

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