Erie Diocese addresses victims

“The Diocese of Erie will not shroud abusers in secrecy.”

Bishop Lawrence Persico of the Diocese of Erie addressed victims in a news conference on Tuesday held in the wake of the release of the grand jury report.

“I want to express my sorrow and apologize to the victims of sexual abuse which occurred in the Diocese of Erie,” Persico, said. “(You) have suffered in darkness for a very long time. You were betrayed by people holding themselves out in service.”

He said he couldn’t know the “depth of anguish” that the victims are experiencing.

“I want to assure you that you are not responsible in any way for what happened. (I) admire those of you who were able to come forward and testify. I humbly offer my sincere apology…. I hope that you can accept it. I know that apologizing is only one step in a very long and complex process.”

While he outlined policies and procedures that are being implemented, he said that Tuesday was “not the moment to focus on our efforts. Today, I simply stand before you, humble and sorrowful.”

“The public will begin to understand your pain in a new way,” he continued.

Persico said he is “grateful” to the individuals on the grand jury who “challenges us as a diocese to put victims first. We have heard that challenge. We acknowledge it. We accept it.

“The Diocese of Erie will not shroud abusers in secrecy,” he continued. “We acknowledge the abuses of the past and are committed to being transparent in our decisions going forward.”

Persico said the diocese would cover counseling costs for any victim and said he would be willing to meet with any victims who wished to meet with him.

“As the leader of the Catholic church in northwest Pennsylvania, I invite the faithful to join me in turning to God in this moment of darkness,” he said.

He then called on the diocese’s pastors to open their doors from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on September 15 for prayer, a date which corresponds to the Feast of Our Mother of Sorrows.

“I commit myself and this diocese to assist in healing for victims,” he noted. “There’s just no excuse for their behavior and what they did to (those) children,” describing the conduct as “disgusting.”