SCRANTON, PA — More than two years since the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s sweeping grand jury report on “widespread sexual abuse” throughout the commonwealth’s …
SCRANTON, PA — More than two years since the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s sweeping grand jury report on “widespread sexual abuse” throughout the commonwealth’s Catholic churches, the Diocese of Scranton is continuing to add names to its list of “credibly accused.”
Pennsylvania’s 2018 grand jury report identified 301 priests in the state who had committed abuse, including 59 in the Diocese of Scranton, which serves 350,000 Catholics in NEPA. The grand jury concluded that the “several [Scranton] diocesan administrators, including the bishops, often dissuaded victims from reporting to police or conducted their own deficient, biased investigation without reporting crimes against children to the proper authorities.”
Now, the diocese has announced that six more priests, one member of a local religious order and one lay employee have been added to the list of credibly accused. Of the six priests, the only one still living is the retired, 80-year-old Monsignor Joseph Kelly, who denies the accusations.
“I say to my family, my friends, my former parishioners, that these claims are absolutely not true,” Kelly said in a statement.
According to a release, the diocese assesses the credibility of allegations of abuse through assessments by outside counsel and investigation by a former FBI agent. All allegations are submitted to the appropriate district attorney’s office.
At the same time as it announced the eight additional names, the Scranton diocese also released its report on the Independent Survivors Compensation Program, a “purely voluntary” effort launched “in order to publicly recognize the harm caused to survivors of abuse, demonstrate the church’s commitment to those survivors and hopefully to provide validation and a measure of healing.”
The program has provided more than $24 million to 213 survivors of abuse.
“While no amount of money can take away a survivor’s pain and suffering, my hope has always been that it will aid in their healing and recovery,” Bishop Joseph Bambera said in an address. “No child should ever face abuse. For those who have endured pain, I once again say, I am sorry. As bishop of the Diocese of Scranton, I take my obligation to support survivors of abuse very seriously.”
The report states that by choosing to accept the offered compensation, the individual waives any future legal claim against the Diocese of Scranton related to their sexual abuse claims.
Kenneth Feinberg and Camille Biros, two claims administration experts, designed and administered the program. The administrators retained “complete and sole discretion” over eligibility and compensation offers to eligible survivors. The Diocese of Scranton could not reject any of the administrators’ final determinations regarding eligibility or compensation, according to the diocese.
Anyone who has suffered abuse by clergy or anyone working on behalf of the diocese is encouraged to contact victim assistance coordinator, Mary Beth Pacuska, at 570/862-7551.
“We believe our program was a small step in helping victims by acknowledging, validating and resolving their claims through our program.”
According to Bambera, the survivors’ program has been primarily funded by the sale proceeds of the Diocese of Scranton’s three long-term care facilities in 2019 and the subsequent transfer of assets held by these three facilities. In addition, some funding was provided by the Diocese of Scranton insurers and contributions from other religious orders. The diocese did not use any funds that had been given by congregation members to support parishes, schools, or any donor-restricted contributions.
Any individual who has been sexually abused by a priest, deacon, religious, lay employee or volunteer of the diocese is urged to report abuse directly to law enforcement.