LOWER PAXTON TOWNSHIP, Pa. — Days before the release of a grand jury report detailing allegations of Catholic clergy abuse and cover-up across Pennsylvania, the Diocese of Harrisburg on Wednesday shared its own list of accused clergy members and outlined steps to address fallout from the probe.
The seven-page list — a version of which the diocese published on a newly launched website — includes 71 clergy members or seminarians working there who were accused of child sexual abuse since the 1940s, including one who left ministry as recently as 2016. That is roughly triple the number of Harrisburg clergy members against whom allegations had previously been reported.
The list, compiled following an internal review, "has caused the diocese to take a frank look at its past as well as its present," Bishop Ronald Gainer said at a news conference at diocesan offices. "In my own name, and in the name of the Diocesan Church of Harrisburg, I express profound sorrow, and I apologize to the survivors of child sex abuse."
The bishop also acknowledged that because at points over the decades "the leadership of the church did not in every case take adequate measures" to protect sexual-abuse victims, he had ordered the names of every Harrisburg bishop since 1947 to be removed from any room, facility, or building in the diocese that honored them.
"This decision may be controversial, but I believe leaders of the diocese must hold themselves to higher standards," Gainer said.
The posting of the Harrisburg list came ahead of the looming release of a grand jury report that chronicles past abuse by hundreds of Catholic clergy across Pennsylvania. Attorney General Josh Shapiro has said the report will expose widespread sexual abuse "and a systemic cover-up by leaders" in six of the state's eight Catholic dioceses. And it came on the heels of last week's resignation of Washington Cardinal Theodore McCarrick over past allegations of sexual misconduct involving boys and young seminarians.
On Wednesday, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, acknowledged "grave moral failures of judgment on the part of church leaders" given their failure to take action earlier, and said conference leaders are deliberating over reform amid a "crisis of sexual morality."
More revelations are coming. Last week, the state Supreme Court ordered the release this month of a redacted copy of the more-than-800-page grand jury report, at least temporarily removing names or identifying information about nearly two dozen clergy members who secretly challenged their inclusion in the report. The report is expected to become public between Aug. 8 and Aug. 14, depending on challenges to the redactions.
Attorney Matthew Haverstick, who represents the Harrisburg Diocese, said the list released Wednesday is "not the same" as the list that will be included in the grand jury report, but he would not elaborate. "It's not appropriate for me to talk about it," he said.
Harrisburg diocesan officials said their list of accused clergy should not be viewed as a determination of guilt or innocence, but rather as a list of historical allegations compiled using diocesan records. More than half the men on it are dead and none are currently in active ministry, although the whereabouts of some are unknown. Haverstick called the allegations "historic stuff — this is not stuff that happened five years ago, 10 years ago."
Also left off the list were names of accused priests for whom the claims were deemed "not substantiated" by law enforcement or diocesan reviewers.
Gainer, who became the Harrisburg bishop in 2014, said the diocese had intended to publish the list in September 2016 but held off at the request of the Attorney General's Office, which feared it would hamper what was then an early-stage investigation.
"They had decades to publish these names, then they wanted to give them out in the middle of our investigation … when it could only harm our investigation," said Joe Grace, a spokesperson for Shapiro. He said the decision to release them now was long overdue, noting that the diocese at one point tried to shut down the grand jury probe.
Gainer also said Wednesday the diocese will waive any confidentiality provisions in past legal settlements with victims "so that the survivors can feel free to tell their stories to whomever and whenever they wish." It was not immediately clear how many such settlements existed, although the Conference of Catholic Bishops barred the confidentiality clauses in 2002.
In 2004, then-Harrisburg Bishop Nicholas Dattilo reported that 22 priests had been credibly accused of sexually abusing minors between 1950 and 2002. A separate list kept by the watchdog group BishopAccountability.org had identified 24 accused clergy or seminarians in the Harrisburg Diocese.
The disparity between the number of priests previously known and the number named Wednesday "demonstrates that for Church hierarchy, the reputation of the Church and the Church hierarchy was more important than the safety of children," said the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, an advocacy group.
Among priests on the Harrisburg list who had confidentiality agreements with accusers was the Rev. Augustine Giella, who transferred to Harrisburg from the Archdiocese of Newark, N.J., and faced "multiple allegations of sexual abuse of children," according to the diocese. Giella died within months of being charged in New Jersey with sexual assault and child pornography in the early 1990s.
Harrisburg-area lawyer Ben Andreozzi, who represents some of Giella's victims, said the diocese should have disclosed names of the accused priests 15 or 20 years ago, or when they were accused, "as opposed to releasing this list days before the grand jury report would have done the exact same thing."
Also included on the list was Guy Marsico, another priest who faced multiple allegations of child sexual abuse. A Lancaster County man who said he was abused by Marsico, and testified before the grand jury, filed court papers asking the state Supreme Court to release the grand jury report.
The pending grand jury report is the culmination of a two-year investigation in the Dioceses of Pittsburgh, Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, and Scranton. Of them, the Erie Diocese also released a similar list of accused priests in advance of the report. The state's two other dioceses — Altoona-Johnstown and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia — already have been examined in similar investigations and published their own lists.