Bishop Barres wants ‘decisive answers’ to alleged abuse cover-up

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St. Agnes Cathedral in Rockville Centre. (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

Bishop John Barres of the Diocese of Rockville Centre has called on the Vatican to provide “decisive answers” in response to allegations that Pope Francis failed to remove a former American cardinal after accusations of sexual abuse.

Barres, the leader of Long Island’s 1.5 million Roman Catholics, released a statement last Tuesday supporting a letter recently written by Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, the president of the United States Conference of Bishops.

Last week, DiNardo called for a thorough investigation into Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington. McCarrick resigned in late July when allegations came to light that he had sexually abused minors and young seminarians over the course of decades, according to a New York Times report.

McCarrick also worked in New Jersey and attended Barres’ installation as the head of the Rockville Centre Diocese last year.

“The allegations against Archbishop McCarrick are extremely serious,” Barres said in a statement to Newsday. “If those allegations are true, then he disgraced his offices and the Church — which is dedicated to helping, not victimizing, people — and committed terrible sins.”

In his letter, DiNardo also called for a plan of action that would make reporting abuses easier and would improve procedures for resolving complaints against bishops. He ended the letter by offering his apology to Catholics around the country.

“In other ways, we have failed you,” he wrote after reiterating the steps the church had taken to curb abuse in the past decade.

DiNardo’s letter was prompted by one written by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, the former Vatican ambassador to the United States. Viganò wrote on Aug. 26 that officials high up in the Catholic Church — including Pope Francis — knew about the allegations against McCarrick but covered them up. Viganò called on Francis to resign.

In his letter, DiNardo said Viganò’s letter “brings particular focus and urgency to this examination” of why McCarrick was protected for so long. But Pope Francis dismissed the accusations in Viganò’s letter the same day it was released.

“You read the statement attentively, and you make your own judgment,” Francis told journalists aboard the papal plane, according to Newsday. “I will not say a single word about this.”

In addition to calling for answers regarding McCarrick, Barres supported DiNardo’s plan of action and offered his own apology to those who had been abused.

Barres told Newsday that he first met McCarrick in the early 2000s when Barres was chancellor of the Diocese of Wilmington. When Barres was ordained as bishop of the Diocese of Allentown in 2009, he said, he saw McCarrick at various functions.

A grand jury report in Pennsylvania released last month alleged Barres mishandled two incidents of sexual abuse by priests. Barres told Newsday that there were inaccuracies in the report and the Pennsylvania attorney general never got his side of the story.

Reach reporter Luke Torrance by email at ltorrance@theislandnow.com, by phone at 516-307-1045, ext. 214, or follow him on Twitter @LukeATorrance

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