Investigation into clergy sexual abuse of children in six dioceses in Pennsylvania includes Fort Wayne bishop’s time as leader of Diocese of Harrisburg

Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend (Courtesy photo)

Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of the Catholic Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend said he has always done everything he was supposed to do to protect children and young adults from sexual abuse by predatory priests, both in this diocese and during his time from 2004-2010 as bishop of the Diocese of Harrisburg in Pennsylvania.

“During my time in Harrisburg and now in Fort Wayne-South Bend, I have upheld an unwavering commitment to child safety, closely following all policies and procedures put in place to punish those responsible for abuse,” Rhoades said in a statement the diocese provided late Monday to News-Sentinel.com. “I followed all child protection policies and procedures, notified law enforcement and punished each individual as appropriate.”

Rhoades issued the same statement Friday to the South Bend Tribune, which published a story Saturday.

Both newspapers had asked Rhoades about news reports published last week about the state of Pennsylvania’s grand jury investigation into six Catholic dioceses in the state — including Harrisburg — for allegedly improperly handling reports of sexual abuse of minors by priests and seminarians. The grand jury investigation stretched from 1947 to the present.

The grand jury investigation reportedly identified a combined total of more than 300 predatory clergy in the six dioceses, The Associated Press reported.

A redacted version of the reportedly 900-page grand jury report possibly could be made public as early as this week, the AP report said. Some names may be redacted, or hidden, because of legal challenges by the accused person.

Though not citing any of them by name, current Diocese of Harrisburg Bishop Ronald W. Gainer said past bishops of the diocese, which includes Rhoades, didn’t always “take adequate measures” when dealing with cases of clergy accused of child sexual abuse. Gainer issued the criticism in a statement released last Wednesday.

Along with apologizing to clergy sexual abuse victims and to the Catholic faithful of his diocese, Gainer also has released the names of 72 priests and seminarians accused of child sexual abuse since 1947. He also ordered their names and the names of all bishops from 1947 until he became bishop in 2014 to be removed from any honorary use in the diocese, such as on buildings or meeting rooms.

There are no large buildings named to honor Rhoades, but there could be rooms or small remembrances of him in parishes in the diocese, said Joe Aponick, director of the Office of Communications for the Diocese of Harrisburg.

The diocese has asked its parishes to report everything named in honor of the past bishops and the accused priests and seminarians, but the diocese still is waiting to receive all responses to that request, Aponick said.

In the statement the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend provided to News-Sentinel.com, Rhoades said, “The grand jury report and my letter in response, when released, will eliminate any speculation regarding the decisions made during my tenure as bishop of the Harrisburg diocese.

“As leaders, we have an obligation to protect those who cannot protect themselves,” Rhoades said. “My commitment to this effort remains as strong today as it was during my time in Harrisburg.”

While waiting for the release of the grand jury report, Rhoades said, “I would like to offer my heartfelt sympathy and support to all of those victims of abusive priests. It is a critical step in acknowledging what has occurred and beginning the process of healing for victims and so many others impacted by this tragedy.”

Rhoades’ predecessor as bishop of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, the late Bishop John M. D’Arcy, gained note for apparently being the only Catholic clergyman in the Archdiocese of Boston to challenge his superiors’ decisions to return abusive priests to parish work.

In five letters written to superiors between 1978 and 1984, D’Arcy voiced concern about assignments given to four priests. The four included former priest John Geoghan, who was accused of molesting more than 100 children during 30 years of ministry in the Boston area.

D’Arcy’s stand was revealed during The Boston Globe newspaper’s 2002 investigation into the extent of the abuse and cover-up in Boston, which sparked a clergy sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church worldwide.

BISHOP RHOADES’ STATEMENT

Here is the full statement by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend regarding the state of Pennsylvania’s grand jury investigation into alleged sexual abuse of children by Catholic clergy in six Pennsylvania dioceses, including the Diocese of Harrisburg, where he served as bishop from 2004-2010:

“As we wait for the public release of the grand jury report, I would like to offer my heartfelt sympathy and support to all of those victims of abusive priests. It is a critical step in acknowledging what has occurred and beginning the process of healing for victims and so many others impacted by this tragedy.

“During my time in Harrisburg and now in Fort Wayne-South Bend, I have upheld an unwavering commitment to child safety, closely following all policies and procedures put in place to punish those responsible for abuse. I followed all child protection policies and procedures, notified law enforcement and punished each individual as appropriate.

“The grand jury report and my letter in response, when released, will eliminate any speculation regarding the decisions made during my tenure as bishop of the Harrisburg diocese. As leaders, we have an obligation to protect those who cannot protect themselves. My commitment to this effort remains as strong today as it was during my time in Harrisburg.”

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