At the invitation of the Pennsylvania Attorney General, the Diocese of Allentown submitted a written response to the Grand Jury Report. Below is the response, submitted by Bishop Alfred Schlert on June 20, 2018.
BISHOP SCHLERT’S RESPONSE TO THE 40th STATEWIDE INVESTIGATIVE GRAND JURY REPORT
We thank the Grand Jury and the Office of Attorney General for their work in preparing the Report. It is only by confronting and understanding the past that we, as a Church and as a Commonwealth, can begin to heal and move forward toward a goal that we all share: The elimination of child abuse wherever it may occur in society.
The incidents of abuse contained in the Grand Jury Report are abhorrent and tragic. Even though most of the incidents in the Report date back decades and involve priests who are no longer in ministry or are deceased, it does not change the fact that past abuse was terrible, sinful and criminal. Child abuse is devastating and tragic for the victims and survivors, who remain in our daily prayers.
On behalf of the Diocese of Allentown, I apologize to everyone who has been hurt by the past actions of some members of the clergy. As a Diocese, we know that these past actions have caused mistrust for many people.
Fortunately, much has changed over the past fifteen years, as the Grand Jury acknowledged in its Report. The Diocese of Allentown has taken strong and decisive action to prevent abuse and to provide support for victims and survivors. This includes a policy of zero tolerance: the Diocese reports all cases of abuse to law enforcement and perpetrators are removed from ministry.
As a Diocese, we view law enforcement as a partner in the effort to combat the problem of child abuse. For example, in May 2002, the Diocese voluntarily convened a meeting with the District Attorneys of the five counties which encompass the Diocese of Allentown. At the meeting, the Diocese provided the District Attorneys with the files for priests against whom known, credible allegations of abuse had been lodged. Since 2002, we have promptly informed each respective District Attorney when a new allegation is made, regardless of how long ago the abuse may have occurred.
Sadly, abuse still is part of the society in which we live. Today, in the Diocese of Allentown, victims and survivors are heard and cared for, perpetrators are held accountable and children are protected.
The Diocese of Allentown has the following protocols, which it diligently enforces, to protect children:
- Rigorous background checks for clergy, employees, and volunteers of all parishes, schools and other organizations.
- Educational programs have been provided to 38,000 adults. These mandatory programs provide training in recognizing, reporting, and responding to abuse.
- Annual, age-appropriate training is provided to children in diocesan schools and religious education programs to assist children in recognizing and preventing child abuse.
- Safe Environment Coordinators have been designated to ensure that each parish, school, or ministry is compliant with diocesan protocols.
- Mandated Reporter Training has been completed by more than 5,000 people. This training educates people on the legal requirements of reporting abuse.
- An Independent Review Board, comprised of people with expertise on child abuse, assists the Bishop in discharging his responsibilities involving the sexual abuse of minors by clerics.
- The Diocese promptly reports to law enforcement any allegation of child abuse.
The Diocese of Allentown is thankful for the vast majority of its priests, who had absolutely no involvement in this unholy criminal behavior, and who continue to work every day to carry out the mission and good works of our Church. We will focus on reestablishing trust among all those who rely on the Catholic Church for help, for spiritual guidance, and for strength.
The Diocese will learn from the Grand Jury Report and continue to work with law enforcement to proactively use the Report to further improve protections for children and young people. Our first priority remains keeping children safe.
Most Reverend Alfred A. Schlert
Bishop of Allentown