AG Report on Predator Priests Shines Harsh Light on Bishops

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SCRANTON, Pa. -- The state attorney general says in the 24 hours since his office released a report about sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, his office has received more than 100 tips about abuse by priests.

The report released Tuesday names 301 "predator priests" as the state attorney general called them. Almost half of those priests served in churches in northeastern and central Pennsylvania.

Much of the report centered on bishops who covered up the abuse for decades.

Speaking in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro called it the largest report on sexual abuse within the Catholic Church ever seen in the U.S.

The report lists more than 300 so-called predator priests and condemns church leadership.

It calls out by name beloved former Diocese of Scranton Bishop James Timlin. The report alleges Timlin sought to cover up cases of child sex abuse and kept accused priests in ministry.

Timlin, who turned 91 last week, denied our request for an interview, but his attorneys filed a statement with the grand jury earlier this year:

It says, in part,

"Bishop Emeritus Timlin recognizes that some of his past decisions regarding offenders were imperfect, and in hindsight regrets that his past judgments at the time caused a single day of pain to any victims."

Timlin's attorneys go on to say that after 1993, Timlin put in place a process to report allegations to police, a process that led to criminal charges against some Diocese of Scranton priests in recent years.

"All of us have mercy for the victims, and also mercy for Bishop Timlin because everyone tries to do the best job that they possibly could," Kimberly Marchese said.

Devoted Catholics stand by the diocese and by their faith following the release of the grand jury report.

Kimberly Marchese likens it to tearing off a Band-Aid -- painful now, but the report will lead to healing.

"I feel that everyone who walks in faith in the diocese, I think we will stick together. There's a lot of strong laity that have come together, and we're going to fight strong to help the clergy," Marchese said.

"I think if anything, it will make it stronger now. I think the good Catholics that are out there and the people who have the strong prayer life, they'll continue to pray even harder. I don't think it will hurt it," Karen Novatnack of Bloomsburg said.

"We know the end result. God always wins, and he will win, and that's why on this feast day of Mary, she's letting us know, on this feast day, that she's with us and there will be a victory," Marchese said.

On this day, Catholics celebrate the Feast of the Assumption, signifying when Jesus' mother, Mary, went to heaven. The symbolism wasn't lost on Marchese who runs "Building the Kingdom of God," a religious gift shop in Dunmore.

"I believe that the Blessed Mother knew that this was going to happen to us, and that this is a powerful day because she is showing us now that any evil that existed, it had to be brought into the light, so that our church could be cleansed, and we can come back stronger than ever."

Marchese braced for a backlash in her shop a day after the grand jury report. But instead, she says Mass was crowded and it was a busier day than usual in the shop.

"I'm glad it's over. It was coming. We kind of figured that. I'm glad it's all over and all behind us. And I think we really just need to pray even harder, pray harder for the priests of today and go from there," Novatnack said.

Others have little faith that the church will make significant changes to curb sexual abuse.

We talked to Tim Lennon on Skype. Lennon is president of SNAP, the Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests.

"We know that when there's notice brought forward, other survivors say, 'That happened to me.' Many survivors, most survivors, never step forward, so when there's public notice then they can see that they're not alone," said Lennon.

Lennon and his organization plan to be in Scranton on Monday as part of a media tour following the release of the grand jury report. SNAP will also hold a support group for other survivors.

"There needs to be more concrete reform than a bishop resigning or an apology. There needs to be a concrete reform of how we're going to help those who are harmed."

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