The Roman Catholic Diocese of Erie has updated its Policy for the Protection of Children and Youth in response to an investigation that began in September 2016 when the diocese, along with six others, was subpoenaed by the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office on accusations of sexual abuse.
From our viewpoint, the diocese has been open and transparent through the investigation and is making it a priority to help victims of misconduct.
On Friday, at the direction of the Most Rev. Lawrence T. Persico, bishop of Erie, the diocese released a list of 51 names of those the diocese said have credible accusations against them that disqualify them from working with children. Thirty-four of the 51 people named are priests – 20 of whom are deceased – and the other 17 are lay men and women.
Two of the deceased worked at Gannon University. Monsignor Bonaventure Ciufoli taught art history in the 1950s, but returned to Italy in the late ‘60s. The Rev. John Schanz taught theology for over 40 years and retired in 1996.
In addition, the Rev. David Poulson, who taught philosophy at Gannon from the mid-1980s until 1997, is one of three people in connection with the report who are under investigation by law enforcement. The diocese noted that the three are innocent until proven guilty.
The Policy for the Protection of Children and Youth includes three new components. The first, is a set of definitions that give clear explanation of what abuse is and it also explains what needs to be present for a child abuse case to be substantiated.
The second component is the expanded role of the Office for the Protection of Children and Youth. It will be the entity to first receive all allegations from any school, agency, parish or other source connected to the church.
The third component is an update and revision of the website, which can be found at www.ErieRCD.com/policyupdate.htm, where the policy can be found.
Gannon President Keith Taylor, Ph.D., sent out an email to all faculty and staff and recognized that because Gannon is a diocesan university, this news might weigh heavy on the entire Gannon community. He echoed the diocese of Erie, saying that the university is dedicated to assisting anyone who needs it and that those who are affected shouldn’t hesitate to contact the Office of Mission and Ministry.
More on the policy and the statements from Persico and the Diocese Communications Office can be read at http://www.eriercd.org/policyupdate.htm.by