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Toledo bishop responds to clergy sexual abuse in letter

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    Toledo Bishop Daniel Thomas

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    "I hope he asks us to do penance," Mary Essex said as she read a letter written by Toledo Bishop Daniel Thomas after attending noon mass Wednesday, August 22, 2018, at St. Francis de Sales Chapel in downtown Toledo.

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    Worshipers gather to celebrate noon mass Wednesday, August 22, 2018, at St. Francis de Sales Chapel in downtown Toledo. Toledo Bishop Daniel Thomas has responded to a grand jury report regarding widespread sex abuse by clergy in Pennsylvania with a letter expressing “anger and sorrow." The letter will be distributed to parishes this weekend. THE BLADE/KATIE RAUSCH

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    \Dr. Paul Bryne discusses the response of the Catholic Church to clergy sex abuse after attending noon Mass Wednesday at St. Francis de Sales Chapel in downtown Toledo.

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    "I hope he asks us to do penance," Mary Essex said as she read a letter written by Toledo Bishop Daniel Thomas after attending Mass Wednesday at St. Francis de Sales Chapel in downtown Toledo.

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    Father Ray Sheperd, top, delivers his homily during noon Mass Wednesday at St. Francis de Sales Chapel in downtown Toledo.

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    Lector Daniel Ello, top, reads scripture as he and about 20 other people celebrate noon Mass Wednesday at St. Francis de Sales Chapel in downtown Toledo.

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    Doug Jones discusses the response of the Catholic Church to clergy sex abuse after attending noon Mass Wednesday at St. Francis de Sales Chapel in downtown Toledo. Toledo Bishop Daniel Thomas has responded to a grand jury report regarding widespread sex abuse by clergy in Pennsylvania with a letter expressing “anger and sorrow." The letter will be distributed to parishes this weekend.

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Toledo Bishop Daniel Thomas expressed his “anger and sorrow” in a letter to the faithful set to be distributed in parishes this weekend following recent revelations of widespread clerical sexual abuse in Pennsylvania,

“As a bishop and a shepherd of the Church, I cannot express strongly enough the anger and sorrow I feel for the physical, spiritual, and emotional pain and suffering endured by survivors and their loved ones. You have my deepest sorrow and fervent prayers for healing,” he wrote, in part. “Nor can I express strongly enough how committed we are to providing support and assistance to those who have been hurt and to renewing our efforts to prevent such abuse.”

The letter goes on to detail policies already in place toward the prevention of clerical abuse and to invite parishioners to fast and pray for the “healing of the victims, for the reform of the hierarchy and the clergy, and for the purification and holiness of the Church.” 

The letters comes after a grand jury revealed last week that more than 300 priests had victimized more than 1,000 children over a more than 70-year period in Pennsylvania. That news has reverberated well beyond state lines, as underscored by the Toledo bishop’s statements this week to local faithful. The grand jury report covered six of eight dioceses in the state, excluding the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, where Bishop Thomas served as auxiliary bishop prior to his appointment to the Diocese of Toledo.

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia was subject to a prior grand jury investigation.

Claudia Vercellotti is a Toledo leader for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. To her, the letter reads as a familiar response that inappropriately distances the bishop from a crisis that directly affects his own diocese.

“It’s the same boilerplate template that his office and all those who have held it before him have generated every time they’re asked to right the ship,” she said. “Same stuff, different day. The problem won’t be solved with platitudes and pandering.”

Several Catholics leaving an afternoon Mass at St. Francis de Sales Chapel downtown Wednesday said they were following the latest news in Pennsylvania.

Mary Essex, 87, echoed the bishop’s call to penance in his letter.

“I feel as the bishop feels — angry, ashamed, and sick at heart,” she said. “I really feel like we need to do penance for the perpetrators, the victims, and the church.”

Doug Jones described himself as sickened.

“It’s hard to read,” he said. “You want say, ‘Protect the church, Put the church in a good light,’ which is what we should do. But you also know it’s got to be dealt with when something comes out, and it’s worse than what you thought it was.”

The Diocese of Toledo has grappled with instances of clerical abuse through the decades. Allegations of sexual abuse of minors have been made against 46 clerics in the Diocese of Toledo for the period between 1950 and 2012, according to the most updated information published on the diocesan website.

The Blade previously reported that the diocese settled a series of lawsuits out of court in August, 2004, amid the national fallout of a report on clergy sexual abuse in the Boston Globe in 2002. These local settlements totaled $1.9 million between 23 victims.

The U.S. Conference of Bishops adopted a Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People in 2002, the same year that the church was rocked by sexual abuse allegations in Boston. The local diocese updated its policies most recently earlier this year.

Bishop Thomas notes in his letter that “since that time, instances of reported abuse of minors have radically declined.”

In inviting parishioners to prayer and penance, the bishop specifically invited parishioners to participate in the first of what he described as “periodic spiritual initiatives.” On Sept. 14, he is asking parishes to hold extended hours for adoration of the Eucharist throughout the diocese.

The entire letter is can be viewed on the Diocese of Toledo website: https://bit.ly/2MqZDzr.

Contact Nicki Gorny at ngorny@theblade.com or 419-724-6133.

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