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Editorial: Pittsburgh, Greensburg dioceses need to show full transparency amid abuse scandal

| Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2018, 11:42 a.m.
Former Rev. John Thomas Sweeney
Former Rev. John Thomas Sweeney

In the midst of a bad news cycle for the Catholic Church, two Pennsylvania dioceses are standing as examples of transparency and an acknowledgment of past wrongs. Two others? Yeah, well…

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro has a report with more than 300 names in it. They belong to alleged predators in cassocks and collars, men charged with shepherding the faithful but accused of assaulting the lambs.

It hasn’t been released because the state Supreme Court has ordered redaction of 14 names. They belong to people who were named in the document but never charged.

The Diocese of Erie didn’t wait. Bishop Lawrence Persico not only testified before the grand jury that issued the report, he published the names of 64 credibly accused priests and laity in March.

On Wednesday, Harrisburg Bishop Ron Gainer followed suit with 71 names. He issued an apology for acts that happened over a period of 70 years, and took another step. While he released the dozens of names of the accused, he made a promise to remove a few elsewhere, pulling the names of every bishop since 1947 from diocese facilities.

But in Southwestern Pennsylvania, names will not be released.

Both the dioceses of Pittsburgh and Greensburg have declined to follow those footsteps. They have their reasons. Pittsburgh Bishop David Zubik cited the rights of the accused under state law. Greensburg’s spokesman Jerry Zufelt said the diocese did not want to “stymie the voice” of the survivors who testified to the grand jury.

That feels hollow just days after retired Greensburg priest John Thomas Sweeney pleaded guilty to molesting a 10-year-old boy at a Lower Burrell Catholic school 25 years ago.

Perhaps fewer voices would be stymied and more rights respected if all dioceses were more transparent. Confession is good for the soul.

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