Bambera: ‘This is the darkest moment’

SCRANTON, Pa. -- Bishop Joseph Bambera, the leader of the Diocese of Scranton, sat down with Newswatch 16 one week after the release of a grand jury report detailing decades of child sex abuse in the Catholic Church in Pennsylvania.

That grand jury report named 59 priests from the Diocese of Scranton who were accused of sexually abusing children. It also highlighted schemes by some of the diocese's former bishops to cover up that abuse.

Bishop Bambera believes the fallout from this report will change the fabric of the Catholic Church in Pennsylvania and across the country.

Banners outside the Diocese of Scranton on Wyoming Avenue signify that the diocese is celebrating its 150th anniversary in 2018.

"I would dare say, in the 150 years of our diocese, this is the darkest moment, as we look back on events that have occurred in our recent history that really should never have been," Bishop Bambera said.

Bishop Bambera is one of the top leaders of the Catholic Church in Pennsylvania during one of its most trying times, a time when the world is watching following the release of a scathing grand jury report into child sexual abuse by priests in six of the state's eight dioceses.

The report lists more than 300 predator priests and also harshly criticizes bishops, including some of Bambera's predecessors, such as Bishop James Timlin for their roles in covering up abuse.

Bishop Bambera says the report only adds to parishioners' already eroding trust in the church.

"It's not going to happen because I've said people should trust me, why? I and bishops and priests clearly with this report have given people a reason to say, 'We don't.'"

Bambera noted that the majority of the cases included in the report happened before 2000. When he took over in 2010, the diocese adopted a "no tolerance" policy where accused priests are removed from ministry immediately after allegations are made.

But, he admits that's just the start.

"When what we say we're doing to protect our kids and to create environments that are safe comes to pass."

While the grand jury report still may cause immeasurable damage to the institution of the Catholic Church in Pennsylvania, Bishop Bambera says it hasn't shaken Catholics' faith.

"All you would have had to have done would be in any of our churches this weekend and you recognize visually how our people are suffering because of this. And yet, they were there," the bishop said.

The grand jury report made some recommendations to Pennsylvania lawmakers. We asked Bishop Bambera if he would support those recommendations. He said he would support the elimination of a statute of limitations on the criminal prosecution of child sex crimes.

As for whether victims should be allowed a window of time to file civil cases against the church, the bishop said that one would require some more research.

13 comments

  • The Writer's Voice (@WritersVoice4U)

    My father went to the church years ago to state his concerns about the priest that was abusing my brother and I, and the bishop said that we came on to the priest. I was 5. This bishop is also a phony. I talked to him about my abuse and he just sent his lawyer to confront me and harass me. I wouldn’t believe anything this gut says. He knew about these abuses since he was bishop the last several years and didn’t release this report until he was forced to do so. Now he wants to act shocked and concerned; give me a break.

  • lickerblisters

    If Priests are willing to break the law and molest children, shouldn’t they also be willing to break a church rule and engage in sexual relations with a consenting adult instead? I think these Catholics have things a little backwards.

  • Matt Berns

    This is not the darkest moment of the church. I’d say the Crusades, Spanish Inquistion, or selling of indulgences were much worse. Besides I’d say the church brought this out of the darkness. We’re seeing light.

    • Silverfish Imperetrix

      The Crusades were a response to almost 500 years of muslim aggression and expansion. It’s too bad the Crusaders didn’t follow them back to their lairs and finish them off. The world would have been a much better place if they did.

  • burtfan16

    Could it be that if priests and nuns were permitted to engage in traditional relationships this huge pedophilia problem would not exist? Or does God want his representatives stealing youth and innocence from children?

  • burtfan16

    300 predator priests in Pennsylvania, do the math about how many more in the rest of the country, the rest of the world? And how many I wonder didn’t get caught or were protected. This is a disgusting state of affairs and I hope the church doesn’t bounce back from this for a long time.

    • Matt Berns

      Let me help with your comment. Catholicism is about 2000 years old. That’s a lot of priests and children. This didn’t just start occurring in the last 75 years. I don’t think anyone can speculate how bad this problem is or was.

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