On Friday, Harrisburg Bishop Ronald Gainer, who was implicated in this week’s grand jury report on sexual abuse by Catholic priests in Pennsylvania, spoke at a mass of forgiveness in front of hundreds of attendees. The report states that more than 300 priests in six Pennsylvania dioceses, including 45 priests in Harrisburg, had abused more than 1,000 children.
During the mass, Bishop Gainer called for a year of repentance, according to NBC News.
“We all know the saying, ‘Words are cheap,’” Gainer said, “but my words in these past weeks and my words now at this mass are invested with profound remorse, firm resolve and consistent action that these actions committed by some members of the clergy that violated the innocence and dignity of children must be eliminated from the church’s life.”
As previously reported by the Inquisitr, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court released a report on Wednesday as the result of a two-year grand jury investigation, which found that church leadership actively hid decades of abuse by priests. Rather than face criminal prosecution, the priests were relocated to different parishes by the Catholic Church.
Bishop Gainer read the opening of the grand jury report during the mass of forgiveness. According to The Ledger, Gainer expressed his “heartfelt apology” to the victims of this abuse.
The grand jury’s report named and criticized Bishop Gainer for not defrocking priests who were under suspension for abuse. Despite the grand jury’s criticism, the diocese insists that Gainer worked quickly to take appropriate action against the priests after becoming bishop in 2014.
The Sentinel reports that in 2014, Gainer initiated a review of outstanding accusations of sexual abuse against members of the clergy, making recommendations of actions in individual cases to the Vatican. Bishop Gainer wrote to the Vatican that year on behalf of two priests, James Beenan and Joseph Pease, advocating against their removal from the priesthood. According to the grand jury report, Gainer asked for leniency for the accused priests, rather than prosecution or defrocking.
“I am not seeking the initiation of a trial, or dismissal from the clerical state. Instead, I request from the Congregation for Doctrine of the Faith that Joseph Michael Pease be permitted to live out his remaining years in prayer and penance, without adding further anxiety or suffering to his situation, and without risking public knowledge of his crimes.”
The Sentinel notes that Bishop Gainer also asked for leniency in the case of Beenan.
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