Bishop takes a bold step in sexual-abuse scandal

Fully recovered from acute leukemia, which put him out of commission for several months, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in this area met with reporters Tuesday and delivered a reassuring message – about his health, and the ever-growing sexual-abuse scandal roiling the American church.

Over the next two months, the names of all the local priests who have been removed from their ministries because of credible sexual-abuse allegations will be listed on the Catholic Diocese of Youngstown’s website, Bishop George V. Murry said during a news conference at St. Columba Catherdral.

Bishop Murry also reached out to the public with this invitation:

“I urge anyone who has been abused to come forward and speak with our victim assistance coordinator, retired [Youngstown police] Sgt. Delphine Baldwin-Casey …” The bishop went so far as to provide a telephone number for Baldwin-Casey: 330-718-1388.

The diocese of Youngstown encompasses six counties: Mahoning, Trumbull, Columbiana, Stark, Portage and Ashtabula. Murry has been bishop since 2007.

He was admitted to the Cleveland Clinic on April 29 and received intensive chemotherapy treatment for four weeks. He was released from the hospital at the end of May, but continued to visit the clinic weekly to monitor his progress.

The bishop told reporters that a team of four doctors said he is now 100 percent cancer-free.

Tuesday marked Bishop Murry’s official return to work, which makes his decision to address head-on the sexual abuse scandal all the more significant.

He told reporters he has assured Mahoning County Prosecutor Paul Gains that his office can review files that the diocese has on priests who have been credibly accused of sexual abuse.

The bishop also said he will speak to prosecutors in the other counties in the diocese.

This willingness to come clean with what has occurred stands in stark contrast to the findings of a devastating grand jury report released recently on child-sexual abuse in the Pennsylvania Roman Catholic Church.

‘Predator priests’

According to the report, more than 1,000 children were molested or raped by over 300 “predator priests” in six Pennsylvania dioceses since the 1940s.

What is blood curdling about the findings is that a succession of bishops and other diocesan leaders worked to shield the church from bad publicity and financial liability by shuffling abusive priests around parishes rather than reporting complaints to police. That allowed hundreds of known offenders to return to the ministry.

The cover-up by the church’s hierarchy is just as egregious as the crimes committed by members of the clergy. Both undermine the faith of Catholics in the church.

It is instructive that Pope Francis also has been accused of turning a blind eye to the sexual-misconduct allegations against one of the most prominent Catholics, Cardinal Theodore Mc- Carrick.

McCarrick, who headed the diocese of Washington, D.C., and was known worldwide, was alleged to have repeatedly abused both boys and adult seminarians.

In June, Pope Francis finally ordered McCarrick removed from public ministry. He subsequently resigned from the College of Cardinals, and Francis ordered him to a “life of prayer and penance.”

We have been unyielding in our criticism of the way the Catholic Church’s hierarchy has handled decades of child-abuse allegations against priests, which is why we take special note of Youngstown Bishop Murry’s news conference Tuesday and his commitment to transparency.

The bishop explained that during his tenure in Youngstown, he has followed a simple rule: Make sure to notify in writing all the parishes and schools that were served by a priest credibly found to have sexually abused children and/or adults.

In addition, members of the parishes and schools are urged to report any incidents they are aware of or have personally experienced.

Bishop Murry’s fighting spirit was evident in his battle against acute leukemia. It is now on full display with his handling of the sexual-abuse scandal that has shaken the church to its core.

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