Top Stories

Bishop Zubik announces action plan following grand jury sex abuse report

PITTSBURGH — The Diocese of Pittsburgh has announced it’s five-part plan to address the concerns of community members following the release of the grand jury report on sex abuse within the Catholic church.

Church leaders, including Bishop David Zubik, held several listening sessions across the area to talk to survivors and other church-goers and gather feedback.

Reading this in the WPXI News App? Click the + next to the headline to subscribe to alerts as we learn more about these and other abuse allegations.

“Victims/survivors will continue to shape our diocesan response to assist those who have been abused, to strengthen our efforts to prevent future abuse by any representative of the Church, and to restore whatever is broken in the Body of Christ,” Bishop Zubik wrote.

RELATED STORIES:

The full plan includes creating a Church Healing Commission, which will consist of 12 lay people, to review the implementation of the plan.

Zubik also announced changes to the screening process for seminary applicants.

Read Zubik's full plan below:

Healing and Enhanced Support for Victims/Survivors, Their Families and Loved Ones

Longstanding diocesan programs will be streamlined and strengthened with new initiatives as Bishop Zubik establishes the Secretariat for the Protection of Children, Youth and Vulnerable Adults. It will include four offices that 1) receive allegations and coordinate diocesan response; 2)  Assist parishes in providing spiritual and emotional support to victims/survivors; 3) oversee background checks and child protection training for all clergy, staff and volunteers and 4) conduct any diocesan inquiry into allegations that would not be the purview of law enforcement and monitor clergy who were removed from ministry due to substantiated allegations of child sexual abuse. • The Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program (IRCP), established in January 2019 to help victims/survivors financially. • The Independent Review Board, created in 1989 and composed of individuals from disciplines pertinent to assessing allegations of child sexual abuse, will have an expanded role. In addition to making recommendations to the bishop regarding an accused cleric’s suitability for ministry, and reviewing pertinent diocesan policies, the board will meet quarterly to receive an update on all issues related to any allegation of sexual abuse or any inappropriate sexual behavior received within the previous three months.  • The diocese is establishing support groups and spiritual retreats for victims/survivors.

Greater Financial Transparency

The diocesan website will add a broader scope of financial information over the next 10 months, including: o The aggregate amount of past victims’ compensation through legal settlements and the total amount disbursed to victims/survivors from the IRCP.  o The amount of the legal fees incurred by the diocese related to clergy sexual abuse. o The annual amount that the diocese is canonically obligated to pay as sustenance to clergy who have been removed from ministry due to substantiated allegations of child sexual abuse. • Bishop Zubik will expand the membership of the Diocesan Finance Council to now consist of representatives from each of the six counties of the diocese. The Diocesan Finance Council includes lay business and finance professionals who review financials, provide advice, promote best practices and whose consent is canonically required for certain large expenditures.

Increased Accountability

Bishop Zubik will create the Church Healing Commission, consisting of up to 12 laypeople who are Catholic and non-Catholic, including abuse survivors, with representation from all six counties in the Diocese of Pittsburgh. This advisory commission will assist him in monitoring progress on the five-point plan. • Bishop Zubik will also establish an independent, third-party system for reporting concerns about suspected financial, professional, or personal misconduct in any parish, school, institution or office of the Diocese of Pittsburgh. • The Diocese of Pittsburgh will continue to update its public list of diocesan clergy with allegations of child sexual abuse.

Ongoing Spiritual and Human Formation for Clergy and Seminarians

Bishop Zubik explains longstanding efforts to screen seminary applicants, evaluate candidates for ordination and provide spiritual and psychological support to priests and deacons. He promises that “every possible step is being taken to provide current and future clergy with the support they need to live a healthy, chaste life with a heart free to love as Jesus loves, by laying down their lives for others.”

Continued Listening to Seek Truth and Reconciliation

Bishop Zubik promises to continue to meet individually with victims/survivors and to hold eight annual public listening sessions on various matters of concern to Catholics.   “God is always ready to listen to us. Every leader who is ordained to serve Jesus Christ, and to follow in His footsteps, must listen, too,” he wrote. The pastoral letter is not the final word about The Church Healing, the bishop wrote:  “Through continued listening and dialogue to seek the best path forward, through pastoral care and advocacy for victims/survivors of abuse and through the healing of hearts and lives, the Body of Christ that is suffering together can also be renewed together.”