Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Greek Catholics in PA now under investigation for abuse

(Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) - Eastern Catholic jurisdictions in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia have confirmed that Pennsylvania officials have begun investigating them in a continued inquiry into the sexual abuse of children by priests.

The Byzantine Archeparchy of Pittsburgh has confirmed that it is one of the subjects of a broader investigation.

And a bishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia has confirmed that his jurisdiction has received a grand jury subpoena for documents related to the investigation.

Eastern Catholics are, like Roman Catholics, loyal to the pope and Catholic doctrine but have different bishops, priests, parishes and liturgies.

They were not subject to a recent grand jury that investigated six Roman Catholic dioceses and that released an Aug. 14 report identifying more than 300 priests accused of sexually abusing children over the past seven decades.

“We've been told that we’re part of the investigation,” said Cathy Chromulak, general counsel to the Archeparchy of Pittsburgh. But she said the inquiry is preliminary and the archeparchy is still learning what it involves. “What we’re trying to do is simply respect this investigative process,” she said.

Auxiliary Bishop Andriy Rabiy of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia told Catholic News Service that the church would comply with providing its files at an upcoming Oct. 24 court hearing.

“The archeparchy and I will fully cooperate with the law enforcement agencies,” he said.

Details of the investigation are unclear, and it could not be confirmed Tuesday which Pennsylvania entity may be conducting a probe.

But a review of court documents confirms that a 43rd statewide investigating grand jury received Pennsylvania Supreme Court approval in 2017 to convene under circumstances similar to that of the 40th grand jury, which issued the August report.

Like the 40th, the 43rd was requested by Attorney General Josh Shapiro and is convening in Allegheny County under Judge Norman Krumenacker III, the Cambria County president judge who also presided over the 40th grand jury. He also presided over that one’s predecessor, the 37th, which issued a blistering report on the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown in 2016. However, nothing in the court document indicates the subject matter of the 43rd grand jury, and its work already produced an indictment in a Clearfield County drug case that has nothing to do with the church.

The two archeparchies, or archdioceses, trace their roots to Eastern European Slavic immigrant churches. While much smaller in membership than most Roman Catholic dioceses, they are particularly concentrated in Pennsylvania and neighboring states due to historic immigration patterns.

And despite their similarities, the Ukrainian and Byzantine also have separate hierarchies and overlapping territories.
Unlike the norm in Roman Catholic dioceses, Eastern Catholic bishops can ordain married men, though until recently that was restricted in the United States.

The Byzantine archeparchy, founded by Ruthenian immigrants, mainly includes parishes in western Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio and West Virginia, with a handful as far west as Texas.

It has 56,929 members, according to the 2017 Official Catholic Directory, with 49 active or retired priests and 74 parishes. It has its headquarters and a seminary in Perry North and its cathedral in Munhall.

The Ukrainian archeparchy has churches in central and eastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia and the District of Columbia. Attorneys general in some of those jurisdictions, such as New Jersey and Maryland, have launched their own investigations of abuse in the Catholic Church since the Pennsylvania report.

Despite its wide territory, the Ukrainian archeparchy has only 12,846 members, according to the directory. It has 54 active or retired priests and 64 parishes.

(Further complicating things: Ukrainian Catholic parishes in and around Pittsburgh belong to a separate, Ohio-based eparchy, while Byzantine Catholic parishes in Eastern Pennsylvania belong to one based in New Jersey.)

The investigation fits a pattern. When the 37th statewide grand jury was completing an investigation of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Altoona-Johnstown in 2016, the 40th grand jury was created to follow up on more leads and to investigate the dioceses of Pittsburgh, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Erie, Scranton and Allentown.

Grand juries are governed by laws requiring strict secrecy, so the first indication of their existence sometimes comes from those being investigated rather than from law-enforcement officials.

Mr. Shapiro has not publicly said whether any follow-up grand jury is in the works, but he has said more than 1,000 calls have come in to a hotline since the Aug. 14 release of the report and that leads are being investigated.

Bishop Rabiy, who is apostolic administrator of the Philadelphia archeparchy following the health-related retirement of its archbishop, issued a letter to the faithful about the issue.

He said the grand jury report exposed real cases of wrongdoing and coverup in the past but said Catholic leaders in Pennsylvania have done much to be more vigilant in preventing and responding to abuse.

Archbishop William Skurla of the Byzantine archeparchy, in a letter to the faithful following the August grand jury report, said that while the jurisdiction has received “relatively few allegations of sexual abuse of children,” its longstanding policy is to report all such allegations to civil authorities no matter how long ago they occurred.

The watchdog website lists two former priests in the archeparchy in its database of sex offenders, one convicted in 2006 of possession of child pornography and one convicted in 1988 of indecent assault on a 12-year-old boy. Neither are currently listed as priests of the archeparchy.

No comments:

Post a Comment