Bishop Bambera Announces Decision on Status of Bishop Emeritus James C. Timlin

Dear Friends,

The Fortieth Statewide Grand Jury Report released earlier this month shared the tragic details of child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania over the past seventy years. The report focused not only on abusive priests, but also brought increased attention to the role of those who enabled such abuse to continue. Thus, I took the unprecedented step of asking the Independent Review Board of the Diocese of Scranton to review how Bishop James Timlin handled allegations and his role in all cases prior to the Dallas Charter in 2002. I recently received a recommendation from the Independent Review Board.

As background, the board – comprised of three lay persons, a religious sister and a religious priest – is a confidential consultative body put in place to advise a bishop on the assessment of allegations of abuse. These individuals are highly qualified and equipped to assist me with this decision, as each boasts expertise related to law enforcement, education, counseling or victim advocacy. Their combined experience brings a unique perspective that I simply do not have. Though it is unusual for a sitting bishop to review a prior bishop, I insisted the board use the same process for Bishop Timlin as is used for any accused priest or lay person.

I understand that it is unfair to judge past actions against present day standards. However, I also know that the Church could have – should have – done more to protect our children. We cannot ignore this fact today.

It is with this context that I share my decision around Bishop Timlin. After much thought and with careful consideration of the recommendation from the Independent Review Board, I have decided to permanently restrict Bishop Timlin from representing the Diocese of Scranton at all public events, liturgical or otherwise.

This is the fullest extent that my authority permits me to act relative to another bishop. I have, though, also referred this matter to the Vatican Congregation for Bishops, which has jurisdiction over additional aspects of Bishop Timlin’s ministry. This was not a decision that was taken lightly.

It is important that I make this very clear: Bishop Timlin did not abuse children, nor has he ever been accused of having done so. Instead, he mishandled some cases of abuse. He presided over the Diocese of Scranton for nearly 20 years – a time in which the Diocese fell short of its duty to protect children. And, in many of the cases detailed in the Grand Jury report, Bishop Timlin fell short, too. While he followed the existing rules and policies when handling most of these cases, there was more he could have done to protect children.

Some have asked why I did not restrict Bishop Timlin from publicly representing the Diocese of Scranton sooner, given the information that was shared in the Grand Jury report. Frankly, when I became Bishop in 2010, my concern at the time was not with Bishop Timlin, but on the need to keep predator priests out of ministry and to create environments in which our children would be safe. Bishop Timlin had no administrative role within the Diocese at the time, and had been out of office for seven years by the time of my appointment. Yet, the sobering report of the statewide Grand Jury has shown me that I could have done more in this regard immediately upon my appointment to Bishop. It has also caused me to reflect on my own role in handling allegations of abuse in the Church, too. To those who feel I betrayed their trust in me by allowing Bishop Timlin to continue to minister publicly in the Diocese of Scranton since his retirement, I apologize.

The Grand Jury report has not only compelled me to review the actions of Bishop Timlin but also to consider my role and past actions in protecting children. As many of you know, I have been a priest of the Diocese of Scranton for 35 years. Prior to becoming your Bishop in 2010, I served in numerous parish and administrative assignments. For three years from 1995 to 1998, I served as Vicar for Priests under Bishop Timlin. In that role, I became aware of accusations that were brought against several priests. In those cases, priests were ultimately permanently removed from ministry, in two instances as many as five years before the Charter for the Protection of Youth and Young Adults’ mandate of zero tolerance for credibly accused priests was enacted in the United States.

In 2002, I was appointed to an ad hoc committee to review certain files pertaining to several men who had been accused of abuse. The task of this committee was to make recommendations to the Bishop to ensure that all men credibly accused of abuse were removed from ministry, as mandated by the Charter – not to assess how Bishop Timlin handled cases of abuse. Following this extensive review process, 10 men were removed from ministry.

Following Bishop Timlin’s retirement in 2003, Bishop Joseph Martino led the Diocese and served for nearly seven years before I took office. Bishop Martino also carefully reviewed the Diocese’s response to the Dallas Charter, taking into account both the terms of the Charter and canonical processes.

Since my appointment in 2010, I have been hyper-focused on keeping our children safe, both by ensuring that no credibly accused individual remain in ministry, and also by closely following the Dallas Charter and our own Safe Environment Program. When I took office in 2010, I twice commissioned complete reviews of all Diocesan files – again – to make sure no credibly accused man was in ministry. I have also twice revised our policies and procedures to make necessary improvements along the way.

I can tell you with full confidence that, since I became your Bishop, every single allegation of abuse has been reported to civil authorities and Pennsylvania Child Line. Every credibly accused priest has been removed from ministry. And the public has been notified of every priest removed from ministry as a result of an allegation of abuse.

Based on a thorough review of the Grand Jury report, we have found that 93 percent of the abuse detailed in the report occurred before 2000, showing what we already know to be true: reforms in the United States – and our prevention efforts – are working as the occurrences of abuse have been drastically reduced over the last two decades.

Despite these vigilant efforts, we know there is more work to be done, and we must constantly review and update our policies and procedures. The Grand Jury report has caused me – and many of my peers – to look at past events, decisions and decision makers through a different prism.

After thoughtful reflection and prayers, I recognize that there have been times when I, too, could have done better. I ask for your forgiveness in these instances and promise you now – I will continue to do all that is in my power to ensure the safety of our youth moving forward. That has and always will be my priority as Bishop.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, D.D., J.C.L.
Bishop of Scranton

Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, D.D., J.C.L.
Bishop of Scranton
Saint Gregory Parish – August 26, 2018
21st Sunday in Ordinary Time – B

This is the second week in a row that many of you have had to listen to me at the time of the homily. This week, I’m privileged to join with you as you break ground for a much-needed extension of your Church. Last week, my presence should not have been necessary, but, sadly, it was (referring to his video message shown at all Masses in the Diocese). I’d ask for just another moment to share a few more thoughts.

As the reality of the Grand Jury report starts to settle in, most of our feelings have become even more complicated and conflicted. To say that this is a difficult time is an understatement. It surely is a painful time for victims, many of whom have had to struggle in the shadows for years and are now only finally having their experiences validated – even as they relive the nightmare of abuse. It’s a painful time for their families, and for each of you who make up our Church community. While words can be so empty at times, I would again like to offer my sincere apologies to our entire community – and especially the victims. None of you deserves to be confronted with the behavior described in this report.

Yet, however difficult, we must face this tragic reality and learn from the past as we move forward and help victims heal. While most of the cases described in the report date back decades, we must continue to improve our child protection policies and procedures to ensure that we provide a safe environment for all of our children and youth here in the Diocese of Scranton. There simply is no place in a civilized world for the abuse of children – and certainly not within the Church.

I will continue to do all that I can to ensure the safety and well-being of our children and to lead a Church that once again enables you to trust, to have hope and to find peace. Today’s Mass and the groundbreaking that follows reminds us that as hard as it is to move forward, we can – be we can also never forget. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to address that issue once again.

Today’s Gospel passage could not be more appropriate as we attempt to move forward through these challenging days. Many of Jesus’ followers were having a difficult time understanding his teaching about the Eucharist and its roots in the cross – the suffering and death that Jesus would inevitably face. … And a lot of his followers walked away.

In the face of that exodus, Jesus turned to his closest followers – the twelve apostles – and asked a sobering question: “What about you? Do you also want to leave?” To which Peter responds with his well-known confession of faith, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

That’s a pretty timely and relevant question for us, isn’t it? … In the midst of some unbelievable things with which we’ve been confronted these past two weeks, what about you? Do you also want to leave?

People leave the Church for all sorts of reasons. They leave because of changes that have taken place over the years – because of personal encounters that have been hurtful or misunderstood – and I have no doubt that many will leave because of what we’ve had to face here in the Diocese of Scranton and in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

But you are here today – for any number of reasons, I suppose. Perhaps not for every one of you, but for some of you, I am certain, your response to the question of Jesus in today’s Gospel likely echoes that of Peter, “Lord, to whom shall we go?” For all of its human limitations and shortcomings, we see the Church as the place where we have encountered God and through which God has touched our lives.

Perhaps the question that Jesus really prompts us to address today is less whether we’re going to leave and much more this query, “Why do you stay?” … Why do you or any of us stay with the Church in the midst of all that you’ve had to face during these past weeks.

Chances are that the answer to that question starts with what you see as you look around this church. We see a family of believers, don’t we? And in as much as some of the members of that family can prompt us to want to run away at times, that same family contains the key to why any of us stay. … We stay because of a daughter or a grandson who was just baptized and who teach us through their innocence about the boundless love of God. … We stay because of selfless neighbors who set aside their own comfort to serve the poorest and those who struggle the most in our communities. … We stay because of that unique individual whom we so admire who has been given the grace to look beyond obvious hurt and pain to forgive. … We stay because we sense deep within our hearts that there’s more to this world than we can see and touch and understand, and this Church, for all of its imperfections, opens the door to that which is holy! … And we stay because we believe that somehow, through the power of God, we connect with that which is holy through the sacramental life of the Church.

Why do you stay?

I’ve thought a lot about this question over the past few weeks. One of the reasons I stay is rooted in something that a great aunt of mine taught me around the time I was ordained a priest, 35 years ago, when she was well into her 80s. She’d given birth to three children. Two died before they were 5 years of age – one because of a sickness and the other in a tragic house fire. Her third and only remaining son lived into his 60s and died suddenly in front of her on New Year’s Eve. For all of her loss, she embraced life well and with a great deal of enthusiasm and hope. One time, not long before her passing, I asked her how she managed to be so upbeat, given all of the loss that she endured throughout her life. Here’s what she said, “Nobody will ever know the volume of tears that I shed, but I believe with all my heart that there’s nothing we can’t endure if we have faith.”

For me, I stay because my faith is nurtured in this Church community, no matter how tarnished it has become. … What about you? … Why do you stay? … Why are we breaking ground today to expand this worship site? … “Why do you stay?” … I suspect that somewhere in the midst of however we answer this question, we’ll find something that has to do with faith – and the belief that for as imperfect as the members of the Church may be – especially its leaders – God has given us the grace to discover within this community signs of his life, his mercy, his love, and a reason to hope – the surest and the only things that will give us lasting peace.

For me – and hopefully for you – those are pretty good reasons to stay!

“If one member suffers, all suffer together with it” (1 Cor 12:26). These words of Saint Paul forcefully echo in my heart as I acknowledge once more the suffering endured by many minors due to sexual abuse, the abuse of power and the abuse of conscience perpetrated by a significant number of clerics and consecrated persons. Crimes that inflict deep wounds of pain and powerlessness, primarily among the victims, but also in their family members and in the larger community of believers and nonbelievers alike. Looking back to the past, no effort to beg pardon and to seek to repair the harm done will ever be sufficient. Looking ahead to the future, no effort must be spared to create a culture able to prevent such situations from happening, but also to prevent the possibility of their being covered up and perpetuated. The pain of the victims and their families is also our pain, and so it is urgent that we once more reaffirm our commitment to ensure the protection of minors and of vulnerable adults.

  1. If one member suffers…

In recent days, a report was made public which detailed the experiences of at least a thousand survivors, victims of sexual abuse, the abuse of power and of conscience at the hands of priests over a period of approximately seventy years. Even though it can be said that most of these cases belong to the past, nonetheless as time goes on we have come to know the pain of many of the victims. We have realized that these wounds never disappear and that they require us forcefully to condemn these atrocities and join forces in uprooting this culture of death; these wounds never go away. The heart-wrenching pain of these victims, which cries out to heaven, was long ignored, kept quiet or silenced. But their outcry was more powerful than all the measures meant to silence it, or sought even to resolve it by decisions that increased its gravity by falling into complicity. The Lord heard that cry and once again showed us on which side he stands. Mary’s song is not mistaken and continues quietly to echo throughout history. For the Lord remembers the promise he made to our fathers: “he has scattered the proud in their conceit; he has cast down the mighty from their thrones and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty” (Lk 1:51-53). We feel shame when we realize that our style of life has denied, and continues to deny, the words we recite.

With shame and repentance, we acknowledge as an ecclesial community that we were not where we should have been, that we did not act in a timely manner, realizing the magnitude and the gravity of the damage done to so many lives. We showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them. I make my own the words of the then Cardinal Ratzinger when, during the Way of the Cross composed for Good Friday 2005, he identified with the cry of pain of so many victims and exclaimed: “How much filth there is in the Church, and even among those who, in the priesthood, ought to belong entirely to [Christ]! How much pride, how much self-complacency! Christ’s betrayal by his disciples, their unworthy reception of his body and blood, is certainly the greatest suffering endured by the Redeemer; it pierces his heart. We can only call to him from the depths of our hearts: Kyrie eleison – Lord, save us! (cf. Mt 8:25)” (Ninth Station).

  1. … all suffer together with it

The extent and the gravity of all that has happened requires coming to grips with this reality in a comprehensive and communal way. While it is important and necessary on every journey of conversion to acknowledge the truth of what has happened, in itself this is not enough. Today we are challenged as the People of God to take on the pain of our brothers and sisters wounded in their flesh and in their spirit. If, in the past, the response was one of omission, today we want solidarity, in the deepest and most challenging sense, to become our way of forging present and future history.

And this in an environment where conflicts, tensions and above all the victims of every type of abuse can encounter an outstretched hand to protect them and rescue them from their pain (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 228). Such solidarity demands that we in turn condemn whatever endangers the integrity of any person. A solidarity that summons us to fight all forms of corruption, especially spiritual corruption. The latter is “a comfortable and self-satisfied form of blindness. Everything then appears acceptable: deception, slander, egotism and other subtle forms of self-centeredness, for ‘even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light’ (2 Cor 11:14)” (Gaudete et Exsultate, 165).

Saint Paul’s exhortation to suffer with those who suffer is the best antidote against all our attempts to repeat the words of Cain: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gen 4:9).

I am conscious of the effort and work being carried out in various parts of the world to come up with the necessary means to ensure the safety and protection of the integrity of children and of vulnerable adults, as well as implementing zero tolerance and ways of making all those who  perpetrate or cover up these crimes accountable. We have delayed in applying these actions and sanctions that are so necessary, yet I am confident that they will help to guarantee a greater culture of care in the present and future.

Together with those efforts, every one of the baptized should feel involved in the ecclesial and social change that we so greatly need. This change calls for a personal and communal conversion that makes us see things as the Lord does. For as Saint John Paul II liked to say: “If we have truly started out anew from the contemplation of Christ, we must learn to see him especially in the faces of those with whom he wished to be identified” (Novo Millennio Ineunte, 49). To see things as the Lord does, to be where the Lord wants us to be, to experience a conversion of heart in his presence. To do so, prayer and penance will help. I invite the entire holy faithful People of God to a penitential exercise of prayer and fasting, following the Lord’s command. This can awaken our conscience and arouse our solidarity and commitment to a culture of care that says “never again” to every form of abuse.

It is impossible to think of a conversion of our activity as a Church that does not include the active participation of all the members of God’s People. Indeed, whenever we have tried to replace, or silence, or ignore, or reduce the People of God to small elites, we end up creating communities, projects, theological approaches, spiritualities and structures without roots, without memory, without faces, without bodies and ultimately, without lives. This is clearly seen in a peculiar way of understanding the Church’s authority, one common in many communities where sexual abuse and the abuse of power and conscience have occurred. Such is the case with clericalism, an approach that “not only nullifies the character of Christians, but also tends to diminish and undervalue the baptismal grace that the Holy Spirit has placed in the heart of our people”.

Clericalism, whether fostered by priests themselves or by lay persons, leads to an excision in the ecclesial body that supports and helps to perpetuate many of the evils that we are condemning today. To say “no” to abuse is to say an emphatic “no” to all forms of clericalism.

It is always helpful to remember that “in salvation history, the Lord saved one people. We are never completely ourselves unless we belong to a people. That is why no one is saved alone, as an isolated individual. Rather, God draws us to himself, taking into account the complex fabric of interpersonal relationships present in the human community. God wanted to enter into the life and history of a people” (Gaudete et Exsultate, 6). Consequently, the only way that we have to respond to this evil that has darkened so many lives is to experience it as a task regarding all of us as the People of God. This awareness of being part of a people and a shared history will enable us to acknowledge our past sins and mistakes with a penitential openness that can allow us to be renewed from within. Without the active participation of all the Church’s members, everything being done to uproot the culture of abuse in our communities will not be successful in generating the necessary dynamics for sound and realistic change. The penitential dimension of fasting and prayer will help us as God’s People to come before the Lord and our wounded brothers and sisters as sinners imploring forgiveness and the grace of shame and conversion. In this way, we will come up with actions that can generate resources attuned to the Gospel. For “whenever we make the effort to return to the source and to recover the original freshness of the Gospel, new avenues arise, new paths of creativity open up, with different forms of expression, more eloquent signs and words with new meaning for today’s world” (Evangelii Gaudium, 11).

It is essential that we, as a Church, be able to acknowledge and condemn, with sorrow and shame, the atrocities perpetrated by consecrated persons, clerics, and all those entrusted with the mission of watching over and caring for those most vulnerable. Let us beg forgiveness for our own sins and the sins of others. An awareness of sin helps us to acknowledge the errors, the crimes and the wounds caused in the past and allows us, in the present, to be more open and committed along a journey of renewed conversion.

Likewise, penance and prayer will help us to open our eyes and our hearts to other people’s sufferings and to overcome the thirst for power and possessions that are so often the root of those evils. May fasting and prayer open our ears to the hushed pain felt by children, young people and the disabled. A fasting that can make us hunger and thirst for justice and impel us to walk in the truth, supporting all the judicial measures that may be necessary. A fasting that shakes us up and leads us to be committed in truth and charity with all men and women of good will, and with society in general, to combatting all forms of the abuse of power, sexual abuse and the abuse of conscience.

In this way, we can show clearly our calling to be “a sign and instrument of communion with God and of the unity of the entire human race” (Lumen Gentium, 1).

“If one member suffers, all suffer together with it,” said Saint Paul. By an attitude of prayer and penance, we will become attuned as individuals and as a community to this exhortation, so that we may grow in the gift of compassion, in justice, prevention and reparation. Mary chose to stand at the foot of her Son’s cross. She did so unhesitatingly, standing firmly by Jesus’ side. In this way, she reveals the way she lived her entire life. When we experience the desolation caused by these ecclesial wounds, we will do well, with Mary, “to insist more upon prayer,” seeking to grow all the more in love and fidelity to the Church (SAINT IGNATIUS OF LOYOLA, Spiritual Exercises, 319). She, the first of the disciples, teaches all of us as disciples how we are to halt before the sufferings of the innocent, without excuses or cowardice. To look to Mary is to discover the model of a true follower of Christ.

May the Holy Spirit grant us the grace of conversion and the interior anointing needed to express before these crimes of abuse our compunction and our resolve courageously to combat them.


Following the release of the Grand Jury report, Bishop Bambera has instructed the Diocese’s Independent Review Board to conduct a formal assessment of Bishop Emeritus James Timlin’s handling of previous allegations of abuse during his time as the head of the Diocese of Scranton and to make recommendations as to his role in the Diocese moving forward. This review process has already begun and the recommendations are expected no later than August 31, 2018. Simultaneously, Bishop Bambera has referred the matter to the Holy See, which has authority over Bishop Timlin’s canonical status.

This is consistent with how the Diocese handles all similar allegations.  As in all cases, while these matters are under review, Bishop Timlin is not authorized to represent the Diocese of Scranton in any public events, liturgical or otherwise.

The Grand Jury today released findings following its investigation into child sexual abuse within the Catholic Church in Pennsylvania. As the community copes with the findings in this report, Bishop Bambera offers his deepest apologies to the victims who have suffered because of past actions and decisions made by trusted clergymen, to victims’ families, to the faithful of the Church, and to the community at large. No one deserves to be confronted with the behaviors described in the report. Although painful to acknowledge, it is necessary to address such abuse in order to foster a time when no child is abused and no abuser is protected.

The Diocese of Scranton cooperated fully with the Grand Jury because of its firm belief that child sexual abuse cannot be tolerated and must be eradicated from the Church. Now that the report has been made public, Bishop Bambera has released today the list of all of the accused clergy, staff and volunteers within the Diocese of Scranton. The Diocese shared the list of abusers with all 11 district attorneys within the Diocese in 2016 before it knew of the investigation, and then with the Grand Jury as part of the investigation. This is the complete list of names supplied to the Attorney General. It is posted on the Diocese of Scranton website: (Child Protection/Safe Environment Page).

For well over a decade, ongoing improvements have been made to the manner in which abuse allegations are addressed. The Diocese of Scranton adheres to a strict zero tolerance policy, immediately informing law enforcement and removing the accused from the community when allegations are brought forth. And while properly handling allegations is critical, the ultimate goal of such efforts is to stop abuse altogether. While the past cannot be changed, the Diocese of Scranton remains dedicated to keeping our children safe from abuse moving forward.

In response to the report, Bishop Bambera recorded a video message that has been provided to all parishes to be shown at all Masses in the Diocese this weekend. The video can also be viewed on the Diocesan website, and it has been posted to Bishop Bambera’s Twitter page and the Diocesan Facebook and Twitter pages.

Bishop Bambera’s Message:

Bishop Bambera’s Message with Spanish subtitles:

His Excellency, Bishop Joseph C. Bambera, announces the following appointments, effective as indicated:


Reverend Peter Tran, from Senior Priest, Christ the King Parish, Archbald, to Admin-istrator, Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish, Wyalusing, effective August 20, 2018.


Reverend Dominic Obour, from Priest in Residence, Our Lady of Perpetual Help Par-ish, Wyalusing, to Assistant Pastor, Christ the King Parish, Archbald, effective August 20, 2018. 


Reverend Marek Wasilewski, from Assistant Pastor, Saint John the Evangelist Parish, Honesdale, to Leave of Absence, effective, July 25, 2018.


Reverend John J. Kulavich, from Chaplain, Mercy Center, Dallas, to retirement for reasons of health, effective July 31, 2018.

August 19 – 2019 World Youth Day Meeting, 3:00 p.m.

August 21 – Diocesan Catholic Schools Principals Meeting, 9:00 a.m. 

August 26 – Mass – Church of Saint Gregory Expansion Project Groundbreaking, 10:00 a.m. 

August 30 – Mass – Feast of Saint Jeanne Jugan, Holy Family Residence Chapel, Scranton, 11:00 a.m.


The Diocese of Scranton has disclosed the names of all credibly accused individuals to authorities, the public and the press since 2010. More than listing the accused individuals, the Grand Jury report will include a detailed overview of the cases involving clergy who served in any of the six dioceses, including the Diocese of Scranton. Upon public release of the Grand Jury report, Bishop Bambera will release the full list of credibly accused individuals that was provided to the Attorney General’s office for their investigation and the District Attorneys for the 11 counties in which the Diocese of Scranton operates.