Harrisburg diocese rushes to beat grand jury report, names multiple accused clergy with ties to Lebanon
In a stunning move this week, the Diocese of Harrisburg published a letter that identified 71 clergy accused of abuse. None of the men are actively involved with the church, and some are dead, including former Lebanon Catholic Philips DeChico.
In the letter, Rev. Ronald W. Gainer explained his decision to identify accused clergy even if they had passed:
After much consideration, I decided to include the names of men who were only the subject of an allegation of sexual abuse of a child after they were deceased, and thus unable to respond to the allegation. While these men are not a risk to the public, I still felt compelled to release their names in an effort to confirm for those brave survivors who have come forward, and those who still have not, that we have heard their cries and taken them seriously. I hope that this leads to some healing, however small it may be.Rev. Ronald W. Gainer, Bishop of the Diocese of Harrisburg
DeChico was accused of sexual abuse after his death (read his obituary here). He served as principal from 1986 to 1996, after which Lebanon Catholic received its first lay principal, Mr. Mark Freund. Today Mrs. Deb Waters is school principal.
Other men with Lebanon ties include monsignor Joseph Hagar, who was accused after his death (Hagar was pastor of Ss Cyril & Methodius Church at 1300 Lehman St until 1976) and Ibarra Mercado (referred by the Military Archdiocese as he had been at the Lebanon VA Hospital).
PennLive shared video of Rev. Gainer addressing the media earlier this week:
A state grand jury report is expected in the next two weeks. State officials had protested the release of the names, as it could cause living accused clergy to destroy evidence.
As Philly.com columnist Maria Panaritis points out, Rev. Gainer’s position in the above press conference seems a startling display of magnanimity from a body that had tried to shut down the grand jury investigation.
If Josh Shapiro’s cryptic tweet is any indication, the report’s release has potential to cause more news locally if any additional detail of the Lebanon area accusation is included.