ERIE, Pennsylvania — The Catholic Diocese of Erie, Pennsylvania, has published a list of 34 priests and 17 lay people who have faced credible accusations of sexual abuse or inappropriate behavior.
It’s the first time the diocese has revealed the names of those accused of abuse.
“This has been a very long and complex undertaking. We are announcing vitally important initiatives today that we believe will help keep children safe and hopefully encourage healing for victims,” said Anne-Marie Welsh, the diocesan spokesperson.
“It is work that needed to be done. We are not here to pat ourselves on the back. We carry the burden of responsibility for the victims who were abused by the very people who were supposed to serve and inspire them,” she said.
The move comes as a grand jury run by the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office investigates how that diocese and five others in Pennsylvania have handled misconduct allegations against priests.
Bishop Lawrence Persico said Friday that the list is different from the ones released at other dioceses because it includes lay people who are also credibly accused of inappropriate behavior or abuse.
He said the list will appear on an updated and revised website, which went live on Friday.
“Per our new policy, the site includes the names of people who have been credibly accused of actions ranging from furnishing pornography to minors to direct, sexual assault of minors. These actions, in the diocese’s judgment, disqualify them from working with children and youth,” Persico said.
Twenty of the priests and two of the lay people on the Erie list are deceased.
The bishop said the diocese made every effort to contact everyone on the list before it was published.
“I know people stand firmly on both sides of whether or not releasing the names of these individuals is the right decision. Some will say that it has taken far too long to publish these names. Others think we shouldn’t do it at all. They say we are not showing mercy,” Persico said.
“As Catholics, we believe the Lord has infinite mercy and absolution for those who are contrite and sincerely seek forgiveness. But that does not mean they are free from the ramifications of their behavior,” he added.
Crux staff contributed to this report.