Several U.S. bishops have issued statements in reaction to the scandal surrounding Archbishop (formerly Cardinal) Theodore McCarrick and the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report. This overview will be periodically updated, with the most recent excerpts at the top of the list.
Greg Burke (Holy See Press Office) — Aug. 16 Coverage
“Regarding the report made public in Pennsylvania this week, there are two words that can express the feelings faced with these horrible crimes: shame and sorrow. The Holy See treats with great seriousness the work of the Investigating Grand Jury of Pennsylvania and the lengthy Interim Report it has produced. The Holy See condemns unequivocally the sexual abuse of minors.
“The abuses described in the report are criminal and morally reprehensible. Those acts were betrayals of trust that robbed survivors of their dignity and their faith. The Church must learn hard lessons from its past, and there should be accountability for both abusers and those who permitted abuse to occur.
“Most of the discussion in the report concerns abuses before the early 2000s. By finding almost no cases after 2002, the Grand Jury’s conclusions are consistent with previous studies showing that Catholic Church reforms in the United States drastically reduced the incidence of clergy child abuse. The Holy See encourages continued reform and vigilance at all levels of the Catholic Church, to help ensure the protection of minors and vulnerable adults from harm. The Holy See also wants to underscore the need to comply with the civil law, including mandatory child abuse reporting requirements.
“The Holy Father understands well how much these crimes can shake the faith and the spirt of believers and reiterates the call to make every effort to create a safe environment for minors and vulnerable adults in the Church and in all of society.
“Victims should know that the Pope is on their side. Those who have suffered are his priority, and the Church wants to listen to them to root out this tragic horror that destroys the lives of the innocent.”
Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo (USCCB President) — Aug. 16 Statement
“We are faced with a spiritual crisis that requires not only spiritual conversion, but practical changes to avoid repeating the sins and failures of the past that are so evident in the recent report. Earlier this week, the USCCB Executive Committee met again and established an outline of these necessary changes.
“The Executive Committee has established three goals: (1) an investigation into the questions surrounding Archbishop McCarrick; (2) an opening of new and confidential channels for reporting complaints against bishops; and (3) advocacy for more effective resolution of future complaints. These goals will be pursued according to three criteria: proper independence, sufficient authority, and substantial leadership by laity.
“We have already begun to develop a concrete plan for accomplishing these goals, relying upon consultation with experts, laity, and clergy, as well as the Vatican. We will present this plan to the full body of bishops in our November meeting. In addition, I will travel to Rome to present these goals and criteria to the Holy See, and to urge further concrete steps based on them.”
Bishop Lawrence T. Persico — Aug. 16 Coverage
“Today, I want to express my sorrow directly to the victims of sexual abuse that occurred within the Diocese of Erie. You have suffered in darkness for a very long time.
“As the grand jury report demonstrates, you have experienced unimaginably cruel behavior by the very individuals who should have had the greatest interest in protecting you. You were betrayed by people holding themselves out as servants of God, teachers of children or leaders in the community...
“And so, I humbly offer my sincere apology to each victim who has been violated by anyone affiliated with the Catholic Church. I hope that you can accept it. I know that apologizing is only one step in a very long and complex process of healing.”
Bishop Kevin Vann (Orange) — Aug. 15 Statement
“The release of the Pennsylvania’s Grand Jury report yesterday confirms that we who lead the Church have a great responsibility to take action against a predation that can only be called satanic.
“Canon law provides for judicial processes to try all clergy, including bishops, who are charged with canonical crimes. Make no mistake, sexual crimes against the faithful are serious violations of Church law. As a canon lawyer, I know also that these canonical processes were strengthened by Pope Francis as recently as 2016. It goes without saying that there are civil and criminal recourses, as well.
“I appreciate the righteous anger expressed toward those who have failed to follow due process and the demands of accountability. I also want to assure you that I am committed to join with my brother bishops to address these failings. A competent independent national investigative body comprised of qualified professionals needs to be created so that if we have systemic issues within our Church, they can be thoroughly reviewed and addressed. I pledge my support to this and will allocate diocesan funds for this purpose.”
Bishop Mark Bartchak (Altoona-Johnstown) — Aug. 14 Statement
“There have been inquiries made regarding reference to my efforts to fully investigate and successfully seek laicization of one particular priest in the Diocese of Erie. In keeping with my promise to maintain the transparency that I have insisted upon since I became Bishop, it is appropriate that I briefly respond. ...
“Any inference that I was seeking to cover up any misconduct by a priest who had been removed from ministry is simply not accurate. ...
“I apologize again to the victims of child sexual abuse, to their families and to all those affected. I wish to reaffirm my public commitment to respond with the care and compassion that everyone deserves.”
Bishop Alfred Schlert (Allentown) — Aug. 14 Statement
“Abuse is abhorrent and has no place in the Church, or anywhere in society.
“Much has changed in the past 15 years, as the Grand Jury acknowledged in its Report. Most of the incidents date back decades. The offending priests are either no longer in active ministry or are deceased. ...
“But that does not change the fact that the abuse of children is terrible and sinful. The abuse was devastating and tragic for the victims and survivors, and continues to cause pain and anger to this very day.
“As a Church, we will learn from the Report of the Grand Jury and use it to further improve our protections for children and young people.”
Bishop Ronald W. Gainer (Harrisburg) — Aug. 14 Statement
“I read the Grand Jury Report on child sexual abuse with great sadness, for once again we read that innocent children were the victims of horrific acts committed against them. I am saddened because I know that behind every story is a child precious in God’s sight; a child who has been wounded by the sins of those who should have known better.
“As I stressed last week when we released information regarding our own internal review of child sexual abuse in the Harrisburg Diocese, I acknowledge the sinfulness of those who have harmed these survivors, as well as the action and inaction of those in Church leadership who failed to respond appropriately.”
Bishop David Zubik (Pittsburgh) — Aug. 14 Statement
“The Church is the Body of Christ. We are called to be His face, His hands, His heart. Today, we are all wounded in some way by the heartbreaking accounts in the Grand Jury report. I understand your shock upon learning about what victims have suffered at the hands of men who were ordained to be the image of Christ. We cannot minimize the harm done.
“Throughout my ministry as a bishop I have often met with victims of child sexual abuse by clergy to offer my sincere apology in the name of the Church. And so today, to those who have suffered abuse, to the families who have shared their pain, I again sincerely apologize for the harm that you have suffered. ...”
Archbishop Charles J. Chaput (Philadelphia) — Aug. 14 Statement
“The Attorney General’s investigation and subsequent grand jury report involving six Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania has been broad and the content has been difficult to read. The material is painful for everyone, most especially survivors of sexual abuse and their loved ones. We deeply regret their pain and remain focused on a path toward healing.
“It is important to note that the Archdiocese was not subject to the grand jury investigation and is not part of this report. However, that fact in no way eases our responsibility and longstanding efforts to ensure the safety of children and families in our Church environments. ...”
Bishop Edward C. Malesic (Greensburg) — Aug. 13 Homily
“Let me say this as clearly as possible. Priests who have abused our children have no place at our Parish altars wearing the vestments of our sacred mysteries. They have forfeited the right to be called ‘Father’ by our people. Priests who have abused our children have no place in ministry.
“Still, I know that some of the priests named in the Grand Jury Report may have shocked those of you who knew them, worked with them, even loved them. Many of these priests are now dead. None of them are in active ministry. Their gravely sinful behavior has caused unspeakable harm to the survivors of their abuse and to the survivors’ families. The pain which they caused affects all of us. We pray for the Lord’s justice, compassion and strength in the face of this tragedy.”
Bishop Robert Barron (Auxiliary Bishop in Los Angeles) — Aug. 9 Column
“When I was going through school, the devil was presented to us as a myth, a literary device, a symbolic manner of signaling the presence of evil in the world. I will admit to internalizing this view and largely losing my sense of the devil as a real spiritual person. What shook my agnosticism in regard to the evil one was the clerical sex abuse scandal of the nineties and the early aughts. I say this because that awful crisis just seemed too thought-through, too well-coordinated, to be simply the result of chance or wicked human choice. The devil is characterized as “the enemy of the human race” and particularly the enemy of the Church. I challenge anyone to come up with a more devastatingly effective strategy for attacking the mystical body of Christ than the abuse of children and young people by priests. This sin had countless direct victims of course, but it also crippled the Church financially, undercut vocations, caused people to lose confidence in Christianity, dramatically compromised attempts at evangelization, etc., etc. It was a diabolical masterpiece.”
Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory (Atlanta) — Aug. 9 Statement
“We are weary of this cloud of shame that continues to shroud Church leadership and compromise our mission. I am personally disheartened because in 2002 I stood before the body of bishops and the people of God as President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and made assurances in my own name and that of the Church in the United States that this crisis of faith and leadership was over and would not be repeated. I sincerely believed that the unprecedented steps we took at that time would help to heal this wound in the Body of Christ. And so they have, though obviously not completely or even sufficiently. ...
“I am hurt because my respect and fraternal esteem for Theodore McCarrick were clearly misplaced. I never personally worked with him in any pastoral context, having only encountered him as a fellow member of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, but his public devotion to the Church’s social justice agenda was highly regarded. I never knew or suspected the hidden side of a man whose admired public persona concealed that of a violator of foundational Christian morality and of young people who trusted him. Like any individual who discovers far too late that a friend has a history of moral misconduct, I now stand dumbfounded that I was so unaware and naïve. I know that many other bishops feel the same. ...
“While the current leadership of the USCCB considers next steps, I strongly encourage that they engage the laity in reviewing and recommending courses of action that will assure the faithful that we are serious in curing this blight from our Church and from episcopal governance once and for all.”
Bishop W. Shawn McKnight (Jefferson City) — Aug. 9 Statement
“It is almost unbearable. How could a brother bishop disrespect with such callousness the dignity of young boys, seminarians and priests over decades and no one called him on the carpet?
“It is inexplicable to me. This cannot continue, and I hope with God’s grace there will be a change of culture among the clergy.
“...Jesus placed the good of others over Himself. Mission over selfish desires.
“As successors to the Apostles, we bishops are called to be priests, prophets and shepherds who practice in action what we preach in words.
“May God help us to be faithful to Jesus in fulfilling our obligations as bishops.
“During my hour of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament each morning this month, I will lift up in prayer all victims of abuse by bishops, priests, deacons, religious, lay ministers or volunteers in our Church.”
Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger (Albany) — Aug. 6 Statement
“While I am heartened by my brother bishops proposing ways for our Church to take action in light of recent revelations – and I agree that a national panel should be commissioned, duly approved by the Holy See – I think we have reached a point where bishops alone investigating bishops is not the answer. To have credibility, a panel would have to be separated from any source of power whose trustworthiness might potentially be compromised.
“It is time for us, I believe, to call forth the talents and charisms of our lay faithful, by virtue of their baptismal priesthood. Our lay people are not only willing to take on this much-needed role, but they are eager to help us make lasting reforms that will restore a level of trust that has been shattered yet again. In speaking with them, we all hear their passion for our universal Church, their devotion to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and their hunger for the truth. They are essential to the solution we seek.”
Cardinal Donald Wuerl (Washington) — Aug. 3 Statement
“What we are now facing, in the media and from many of our people, is the question: ‘Has anything changed?’
“The answer, I believe, is, ‘Yes.’ We are encouraged by our Holy Father’s determination to hold accountable those who violate the obligations of their ordination, who go so far as to abuse the young and vulnerable among us, or to use their power and influence in a harmful way.
“In his strong and decisive response to the allegations against Archbishop McCarrick, Pope Francis is leading the way in calling bishops to greater accountability. The Pope has demonstrated a keen awareness of the feelings of betrayal, the disappointment, the not-unreasonable anger felt by so many of our faithful people as these accusations come to light.
“Just as our Holy Father has provided us with an example of how to begin to heal these deep wounds, we, the bishops of our country, are presented with an opportunity to reflect on what has come to light, to minister to the pain and to respond as best we can to questions that have been raised by this scandal, while moving forward to address in practical ways the very real and legitimate concerns for accountability.
“I think everyone recognizes that words, good intentions, and new policies, while important, are not enough. We must not only denounce abuse and take steps to stop the abusers. We must remove even the appearance of cover-ups as we investigate and address allegations.”
Bishop Richard F. Stika (Knoxville) — Aug. 3 Statement
“Like many of you, I have struggled in recent weeks with my personal reaction to reports that Archbishop Theodore McCarrick sexually abused individuals during his years as a priest and bishop. I also recognize the anger and doubt Catholics around the world feel due to the nature of this case.
“I want to offer my personal apology for what has happened. While reports and admissions of decades-old sins and crimes have shaken us in recent years, I am confident in the process the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has in place with the Dallas Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. ...
“I believe the charter works, but I also believe it is time for further review and action to strengthen it. I support Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, the president of the USCCB, and his call to convene the executive committee to begin this process of addressing sexual abuse and abuse of power by bishops and major superiors. This will be a priority at the convening of the USCCB General Assembly in November, which I will attend.”
Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo (Houston/USCCB) — Aug. 1 Statement
“First, I encourage my brother bishops as they stand ready in our local dioceses to respond with compassion and justice to anyone who has been sexually abused or harassed by anyone in the Church. We should do whatever we can to accompany them.
“Second, I would urge anyone who has experienced sexual assault or harassment by anyone in the Church to come forward. Where the incident may rise to the level of a crime, please also contact local law enforcement.
“Third, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops will pursue the many questions surrounding Archbishop McCarrick's conduct to the full extent of its authority; and where that authority finds its limits, the Conference will advocate with those who do have the authority. One way or the other, we are determined to find the truth in this matter.
“Finally, we bishops recognize that a spiritual conversion is needed as we seek to restore the right relationship among us and with the Lord. Our Church is suffering from a crisis of sexual morality. The way forward must involve learning from past sins.”
Bishop David J. Walkowiak (Grand Rapids) — July 30 Statement
“Beset by a tragic history of such cases, the Church must seek forgiveness and repentance and reach out in care to victims of such abuse. This history also demands of us the need to continually strengthen our resolve to take concrete measures in ensuring a safe environment for our children and youth in parishes, schools, and society.
“Cardinals and bishops, like priests and deacons, must be held accountable for any actions that cause harm to the most vulnerable in our communities. I encourage all individuals to report such instances so that the Church may take the steps needed toward healing.”
Archbishop Paul S. Coakley (Oklahoma City) — July 30 Statement (PDF)
“How could these allegations have remained under the radar for so long? ... Part of the problem is a gap in the Charter itself. The Charter does not provide clear means for reporting and responding to allegations of abuse committed by bishops. This gap has contributed to the erosion of trust and confidence in episcopal leadership among priests, deacons and the lay faithful. Repairing this gap by creating consistent standards and procedures for all, including bishops, will go a long way toward restoring that trust.
“In a July 24 letter to Cardinal DiNardo ... I highlighted this concern and my hope that the upcoming Administrative Committe meeting in September would address this crisis of trust and these deficiencies in a clear and robust manner.”
Michael F. Burbidge (Arlington) — July 30 Statement
“While the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People (2002) altered the way the Church in the U.S. deals with allegations against priests, much more is needed. For 16 years, dioceses around the country have implemented unprecedented protocols to encourage reporting of allegations and suspicions of sexual abuse by priests and deacons, as well as to investigate such accusations thoroughly, independently and transparently. Clearly, these procedures and policies need to be reflected in the conduct of bishops as well and how we relate to one another. We all must be held accountable for our actions—bishops are no exception.”
Cardinal Donald Wuerl (Washington) — July 30 Interview
“The news regarding Archbishop McCarrick was a great shock to our Church in Washington. There is understandable anger, both on a personal level due to the charges, but also more broadly at the Church. Our faithful have lived through such scandals before, and they are demanding accountability. I believe the actions taken by Pope Francis clearly reflect an understanding that we must move swiftly to address claims of any form of abuse or serious breach of trust by ministers of the Church, no matter who they may be or what position they may hold. Acknowledging such grave breaches of trust and seeking forgiveness open the doors for healing.”
Archbishop William E. Lori (Baltimore) — July 30 Statement
“I strongly support the Holy Father’s response in these cases and his determination to hold accountable all those who have sexually abused others or failed to report allegations of sexual abuse, regardless of their position or rank in the Church. I applaud his resolve in exercising the right and responsibility of the Holy See to discipline bishops and to hold them to high standards in fulfilling their office.
“Building on the Holy Father’s efforts to strengthen the accountability of bishops, some bishops in the United States are discussing proposals to do the same. These proposals include measures that can be implemented in each diocese to ensure that victims can easily report allegations of abuse by any member of the Church, including bishops, and can confidently expect that those allegations will get a full and fair hearing. I will contribute actively to those discussions and will fully implement their results in the Archdiocese of Baltimore to best protect those in our local Catholic community and all those we serve.”
Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger (Albany) — July 29 Statement
“Abuse of authority – in this case, with strong sexual overtones – with vulnerable persons is hardly less reprehensible than the sexual abuse of minors, which the USCCB attempted to address in 2002. Unfortunately, at that time – something I never understood – the Charter did not go far enough so as to hold cardinals, archbishops and bishops equally, if not more, accountable than priests and deacons. ...
“Let me be clear, however, in stating my firm conviction that this is, at heart, much more than a crisis of policies and procedures. We can – and I am confident that we will – strengthen the rules and regulations and sanctions against any trying to fly under the radar or to “get away with” such evil and destructive behaviors. But, at its heart, this is much more than a challenge of law enforcement; it is a profoundly spiritual crisis.”
Bishop Michael F. Olson (Fort Worth) — July 28 Statement (PDF)
“Although he has now resigned from the College of Cardinals and has been suspended a divinis with direction to live a life of prayer and penance in seclusion, the alleged crimes of the former Cardinal have caused such further damage to the integrity of the hierarchy and mission of the Church that his prompt reduction canonically to the laity should be strongly deliberated, as has been the case for many other priests, for reconciliation and healing in the light of the justice and merciful redemption as won by Christ and promised to all who are alienated by the corruption of sin. Justice also requires that all of those in Church leadership who knew of the former Cardinal’s alleged crimes and sexual misconduct and did nothing be held accountable for their refusal to act thereby enabling others to be hurt.”
Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo (Houston/USCCB) — July 28 Statement
“I thank the Holy Father for his leadership in taking this important step. It reflects the priority the Holy Father places on the need for protection and care for all our people and the way failures in this area affect the life of the Church in the United States.”