The Diocese of Scranton Launches Independent Survivors Compensation Program



SCRANTON, PA (January 22, 2019) – The Diocese of Scranton today launched its Independent Survivors Compensation Program, an independent program designed to compensate survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Participation in the Program by survivors is entirely voluntary and the Program is run completely independent of the Diocese.

“Our first priorities are to provide support for survivors of child sexual abuse and to take every step necessary to eradicate abuse from the Church altogether,” said the Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, D.D., J.C.L., Bishop of Scranton. “This Program helps. While no financial compensation can change the past, it is my hope that this Program will help survivors in their healing and recovery process.”

The Diocese’s program includes all victims, whether the abuser was a priest from the Diocese of Scranton, from a religious order, or was a lay employee of the Diocese. The Diocese announced on November 8, 2018 that the Program would be administered by Kenneth Feinberg and Camille Biros, two leading experts in mediation and alternative dispute resolution who have overseen similar programs started by five Catholic Dioceses in New York. Mr. Feinberg and Ms. Biros will have absolute autonomy in determining compensation for survivors, and the Diocese of Scranton has agreed to abide by all of their decisions.

“Ken and I know how important it is to assist victims who have endured a personal tragedy,” said Biros. “We have worked with survivors of sexual abuse and other tragedies and we have developed a system that operates with one person in mind – the victim. Often, survivors are most concerned with having their abuse acknowledged by the Church so they can begin to heal, and this compensation program will help them do just that.”

Program administrators will reach out directly to those who have previously reported a claim of abuse to the Diocese of Scranton. Survivors who have not yet reported past abuse are also eligible to participate and can request a claim form online after reporting the abuse in writing to the District Attorney’s Office. New claims must be registered with the Program by July 22, 2019, while existing claims can be submitted until September 30, 2019. Administrators will process claims in the order in which they are received, and payments will be made on a rolling basis as claims are processed.

An Independent Oversight Committee comprised of three individuals with relevant experience across healthcare, law enforcement and social work will supervise the Program. The Committee members are:

  • Robert Gillespie, Jr., the former District Attorney for Luzerne County
  • Ralph H. Meyer, President and Chief Executive Officer Emeritus with Guthrie Healthcare System, who has spent his entire career in healthcare administration
  • Robin Engels, LCSW, a licensed clinical social worker in private practice who provides counseling and therapy for individuals and families, regarding issues of anxiety, depression, care-giving, substance abuse and post-traumatic stress disorder. She recently retired from the Department of Veterans Affairs, Middletown Vet Center where her work focused on the treatment of Veterans who served in combat zones and their families.

The Oversight Committee will oversee and periodically review the implementation and administration of the Program. The Committee will also report to the Diocese as to the implementation and administration of the Program.

Parish and school assets, as well as contributions and bequests from parishioners and donations to the Diocesan Annual Appeal will not be used to fund the program. Rather, the Program will be funded by existing Diocesan assets and available reserves. If necessary, the Diocese will sell assets and borrow money.

This Program is one of the many steps the Diocese has taken to assist survivors of abuse. Survivors can continue to receive assistance from the Diocese including counseling or spiritual direction and referrals to support groups. The Diocese strictly adheres to a zero tolerance policy and immediately notifies law enforcement, the District Attorney and child protective services when abuse is reported. When the allegation appears credible, the Diocese removes the priest from ministry pending an investigation. The Diocese fully cooperates with law enforcement for any necessary investigation.

For more information about the Diocese of Scranton’s Independent Survivors Compensation Program, please visit

Diocese Requires Safe Environment Protocols for Employees and Volunteers


October 11, 2018

With the beginning of the new school and religious education year, the Diocese of Scranton Safe Environment Advisory Committee stresses the importance of following state and Diocesan protocols for employees and volunteers.

All employees who work with children must obtain the PA State Police Criminal History Check, the PA Child Abuse History Certification and the FBI Federal Check with fingerprinting. Volunteers serving children must also complete background checks. Those volunteers that have lived continuously in Pennsylvania for the past 10 years also need to obtain the two state background checks. If volunteers lived out of state during the 10-year timeframe, they are required to complete the FBI federal check in addition to the two state certifications.

The Protecting God’s Children (VIRTUS) sexual abuse prevention training is compulsory for all employees and those volunteers who interact with children. Individuals identified as mandated reporters of child abuse are expected to complete training on this topic. For a schedule of training sessions, please refer to the Diocesan website at (Child Protection/Safe Environment page).

Parish and School Staff Key to Compliance

As the Compliance Officer for Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of Peace Parish in Hawley, Fran Peters tracks the progress of background checks and training for all clergy, staff and volunteers.

Every staff member and church volunteer, whether they interact with children or not, is required to attend both Mandated Reporter Training and VIRTUS sessions, sign the Code of Conduct and have all background checks done.

“It took some time, but all the members of our parish family understand the need for this and are very easy going with the process. Compliance is the standard,” Fran said.

At Saint John Neumann Regional Academy in Williamsport, Principal Rich Cummings and Safe Environment Manager Ann Wilson oversee the program.

“The implementation of these requirements is completed using a checklist detailing the six-part process and is free of charge for volunteers,” Ann said. “We strive to go above and beyond to keep our children safe.”

Father Connell A. McHugh, pastor of Good Shepherd Parish in Drums, said “we have always done our best in regard to implementing the Safe Environment program. He keeps abreast of all developments; for example, by reading the VIRTUS updates that arrive on a regular basis.

“At Good Shepherd, we do give the Safe Environment program the highest priority,” he stressed.

Another important component of the program is the work of the Safe Environment Advisory Committee.

“This forum provides an opportunity for us to share our experiences and to learn how to help people deal with a societal problem that touches families, organizations and institutions – secular and religious, public and private,” said committee member Monsignor Vincent Grimalia. “Education is an important component of prevention and healing for the various forms of abuse and bullying. We need to promote educated and informed thinking to better understand the causes of abuse, and learn ways of improving methods to prevent, to protect and to provide helpful support for abuse victims.”

Kathy Bolinski, Diocesan Safe Environment Coordinator, said the Diocese is fortunate to have such dedicated individuals responsible for directly implementing the Safe Environment program.

“This is a significant task with the amount of documentation that must be collected,” she said. “These folks are on the front lines in helping to ensure that we keep our children safe.”

Pennsylvania’s Bishops: We Pledge Our Support for Independent Sex Abuse Survivors’ Compensation Program

The Catholic Bishops of Pennsylvania issued the following statement on September 21, 2018:

Since the release of the grand jury report on August 14, we the Catholic bishops of Pennsylvania have reflected deeply on the ugly record of clergy sexual abuse in our Commonwealth, and on times when Church leadership failed to protect our people over a period of decades.

We fully acknowledge that the Church sometimes failed the most vulnerable among us — children and young adults. We deeply regret the suffering of survivors and any decisions that failed to protect them.

As the Pennsylvania General Assembly returns for the fall legislative session, assuring the protection of children and help for survivors of sexual abuse should rightly be one of its top priorities. As various alternatives and programs are proposed, we will support all reasonable and constitutional efforts focused on helping survivors and their families on a path toward healing.

We recognize our responsibility to provide an opportunity for sexual abuse survivors whose cases are time-barred from pursuing civil claims to share their experiences, identify their abusers, and receive compensation to assist their healing and recovery.

To that end, we commit ourselves to creating or participating in an independent, voluntary program that will include a panel of qualified experts to review individual cases and determine financial assistance.  We understand that this compensation program will require substantial fiscal commitment and all dioceses will be seriously impacted. We stress that it is most important for all experts serving on this panel to be independent of the influence of the Church or of any institution in which children may have been abused.

We believe such a program will expedite the process for survivors to present their cases to experienced, compassionate experts who will determine an outcome for each case in a swift, efficient manner. In doing so, the panel will provide a resolution to survivors and allow them to avoid difficult and prolonged litigation. We believe an independent panel is the best option, considering a window or reviver of the statute of limitations will inevitably result in bankruptcy for dioceses. Bankruptcy would cripple the ability of a diocese to provide compensation and healing for survivors, while vastly reducing or eliminating social service programs that greatly benefit all Pennsylvanians by serving some of the most at-risk people in our communities.

We hope that as the program develops it will be open to any youth service organization, private or public, to opt into it to fulfill its obligations to survivors of abuse. We welcome legislative support for such a program.

We cannot undo the harm that childhood sexual abuse has caused, but in humility and repentance we hope the path forward offers a way toward healing for survivors and their families.

Diocesan Day of Atonement and Healing

September 4, 2018

Dear Friends,

In his letter of August 20, to the whole people of God, Pope Francis called on the Catholic community worldwide to unite so that: “every one of the baptized should feel involved in the ecclesial and social change that we so greatly need. This change calls us 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.”

On our behalf, I have accepted and extend now to all parishes and all members of the Diocese of Scranton, the Holy Father’s invitation to a penitential exercise of prayer and fasting. While such an experience does not need a specific start or finish, in order to benefit from the communal expression of this commitment, all parishes have been asked to consider a twenty-four hour period beginning the evening of Friday, September 14 – the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross. This time of Atonement and Healing will continue throughout the day on Saturday, September 15 – the Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows.

Each Parish received a packet of resources to assist in planning for individual, family, parish and Diocesan-level participation. Options provided include Evening Prayer, Holy Hour with Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, Morning Prayer, Memorial Mass for Our Lady of Sorrows, Rosary Meditations, Booklet for Personal or Small Group Prayer and Reflection, Booklet for Family Participation (at home or at church), Intercessions to be included in weekend Masses, and Prayer Cards for individual or communal use.

Personally, I will unite with you among the participants, during the observance of this Day of Atonement and Healing with the community of the Cathedral of Saint Peter.

Taking to heart Pope Francis’ words, together we call on each other to realize that “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.”

As the Universal Church becomes open to this kind of renewal, the Pope suggests that: “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).

Sincerely yours in Christ,

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

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


August 31, 2018

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

Reforms Have Been Working
By Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, D.D., J.C.L.
Bishop of Scranton


August 26, 2018

For almost two weeks now, a pall of suffering, disbelief, anger and betrayal has fallen upon Pennsylvania and far beyond. While the 40th Statewide Grand Jury report finally validated the suffering of countless victims of sexual abuse by members of the clergy, sadly, far too many victims and their families have had to face, yet again, these painful memories.

Devoted parishioners have been betrayed by once beloved members of the clergy. Good and faithful priests, deacons and parish leaders have had to speak for a Church that let its people down, even as they suffer with those entrusted to your care, bearing their own feelings of grief, loss, anger and pain.

And people of all faith traditions and none at all have come face-to-face with nothing short of evil in the midst of an already challenged world.

None of you deserve to be confronted with the tragic details described in the report. To all of you – I am sorry. The Church has failed you.

While so much of the 70-year history that was chronicled in the Grand Jury report portrays leadership in the Church that has lost its way, the fact is that our children are safer today than ever before.

Since becoming Bishop in 2010, it has been my priority not only to properly handle allegations of abuse quickly and transparently in partnership with law enforcement, but also to eradicate abuse from the Church altogether. This has – and will remain – a critical matter to me and to the many clergy and staff at the Diocese of Scranton who are committed to providing safe environments for our children and youth.

In 2002, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops established the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, offering procedures and guidelines for addressing allegations of abuse related to healing, accountability and prevention. At the Diocese of Scranton, we follow the Charter closely and have adopted our own Child Protection/Safe Environment Program that includes a zero tolerance policy on abuse. Since the Charter, we’ve trained nearly 29,000 adult employees and volunteers on prevention, reporting and signs of abuse.

We have consistently reported all credible allegations of abuse to law enforcement and Pennsylvania Child Line, and we alert the public when an individual is removed from ministry based on these allegations. That is our standard practice that has been in place since 2002.

The Grand Jury Report reflects these efforts. In fact, 93 percent of the abuse detailed in the report occurred before 2000. This goes to show 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. We know there is more work to be done, and we’re constantly reviewing and updating our policies and procedures.

When abuse does occur, we maintain a Victim Assistance Coordinator who serves as a compassionate advocate for victims and assists throughout the healing process.

And in an effort to maintain transparency, we shared the list of accused individuals with all 11 district attorneys within the Diocese before we were even aware of the Grand Jury investigation. On August 14 we publicly released that list, which includes information about each individual, his assignment, work history and last known residence. Publishing this list was not meant to make victims re-live the past, but to validate victims, to encourage others to come forward, and to protect our communities.

We’re doing everything in our power to prevent future cases of abuse, and to properly handle allegations when they do come forward. But that doesn’t change heartbreaking events of the past.

We know cases were not always handled properly. Therefore, I’ve asked our Independent Review Board to formally assess Bishop Emeritus James Timlin’s handling of previous allegations of abuse during his time in leadership. We anticipate a recommendation by month’s end. In the meantime, Bishop Timlin will not be representing the Diocese of Scranton. This decision was not made lightly.

While much good work has been and continues to be done through the Church, I know this report is both disturbing and painful. I hope that your trust in the Church can one day be restored. I know that will take time and will only happen when you encounter behavior by all clergy and Church leaders that earns your trust.

I pray that we learn from the past and create a better future for the Diocese of Scranton. For my part, I will do all that I can to keep our children and youth safe.

Bishop Bambera’s Homily at Saint Gregory Parish – August 26, 2018


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!

Pennsylvania Attorney General Releases Report of the Grand Jury Investigation into Child Sexual Abuse


August 14, 2018

Pennsylvania’s Attorney General has released a report from the Grand Jury following its investigation into child sexual abuse within six Catholic dioceses in the Commonwealth, including the Diocese of Scranton. 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 behavior 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. 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.

Letter of His Holiness Pope Francis to the People of God


“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.


Click Here to view a Video Message from Bishop Bambera


Click Here to view a Video Message from Bishop Bambera with Spanish Subtitles


Click Here to view list of Credibly Accused Clergy, Religious, Lay Employees and Volunteers in the Diocese of Scranton


A Prayer for Healing


Keeping Our Youth Safe 


The Diocese of Scranton remains firmly committed to offering pastoral care to survivors of sexual abuse and maintaining a comprehensive array of policies and programs to protect children.

Bishop Joseph C. Bambera said, “We offer our support, compassion and assistance to help survivors of sexual abuse achieve healing. We remain vigilant and firmly committed to doing everything we can to prevent abuse within our Church, parishes, school communities, and Diocesan run facilities.”

Our mission is to create safe environments for children through education and prevention programs, and establishing policies that clearly set standards of behavior regarding contact with minors. These endeavors include:

  • The Diocese of Scranton maintains a zero tolerance policy for clergy, lay employees and volunteers who engage in misconduct with minors and takes immediate action when an accusation is made. Any allegation of abuse is reported immediately to law enforcement, and any substantiated allegation against a member of the clergy results in immediate and permanent removal from ministry.
  • For many years, the Diocese has reported to its parishioners and issued notices to public media regarding instances where clerics were removed from or left ministry due to allegations of child sexual abuse. This policy – grounded in vigilance, transparency, and healing – has evolved and been improved for more than twenty-five years. The Diocese endorses and applauds all efforts to bring this critical issue to the public’s attention.
  • The Diocese retains a Victim Assistance Coordinator who coordinates assistance for the immediate pastoral care of persons who claim to have been sexually abused as a minor by a member of the clergy. Each year, this program offers substantial support to survivors and their families by underwriting expenses related to counseling, medication and other forms of care.
  • All employees in parishes, schools and Diocesan run facilities – clergy, religious and laity – as well as volunteers, including teachers and coaches, must have up-to-date criminal background and child abuse clearances. In addition, all employees and volunteers receive training on the nature of child sexual abuse and how a parish/school community can work together proactively to prevent it. Since 2003, the total number of adults trained by the Diocese now stands at 28,677.
  • In order to strengthen the protection of children and assure that all mandated reporters of child abuse have accurate information, the Diocese of Scranton requires all identified mandated reporters to complete a training course.
  • The Diocese has also implemented a safe environment program for students in grades K-12 in Catholic schools and parish religious education programs to teach them how to recognize and avoid situations that could lead to sexual abuse. It also encourages communication between children and their parents so that potentially dangerous situations and incidents are reported promptly.
  • Our website ( contains comprehensive information about our Child Protection/Safe Environment policies and procedures. In every edition of The Catholic Light, we publish a notice about reporting sexual abuse of a minor to the Victim Assistance Coordinator, Mary Beth Pacuska, at 570-862-7551 or; or the Vicar General, Monsignor Thomas M. Muldowney, at 570-207-2269 or . We also urge anyone to report incidents of child abuse immediately to the 24-hour PA Child Abuse Hot Line. The toll-free number is 1-800-932-0313.
  • Every diocese in the U.S. undergoes an annual audit to determine if it is complying with the provisions of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. The Diocese of Scranton has been in compliance with all audits conducted since inception of the audit process. We constantly assess our procedures to insure that we are following our policies.
  • The Safe Environment Advisory Committee was established in 2016 to provide recommendations and feedback concerning policies and practices of the Safe Environment Program. Currently 40 members from throughout the Diocese of Scranton serve on the Committee.

Diocese of Scranton Compliant with Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People


Bishop Joseph C. Bambera was recently informed that the Diocese of Scranton remains in full compliance with the national standards for youth protection.

The extensive audit process is a critical accountability tool that demonstrates to all the seriousness with which the Church takes the promises made in The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. This is a proactive safe environment program with a comprehensive set of procedures established by the bishops of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) in June of 2002 that addresses allegations of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy and gives guidelines for reconciliation, healing, accountability and prevention of future acts of abuse.

StoneBridge Business Partners, an independent audit firm engaged by the USCCB, conducted a full on-site audit of the Diocese in August. The auditor reviewed all policies and procedures related to the Charter. Following completion of the review, the Diocese of Scranton was deemed to be in full compliance.

The Diocese has been in compliance with all audits conducted since inception of the audit process, and constantly assesses its procedures to insure all policies are followed.

“We take very seriously our responsibility to protect children from abuse of any kind,” Bishop Bambera said. “We remain committed to ensuring safe environments for children throughout the Diocese. We offer our support, compassion and assistance to help survivors of sexual abuse achieve healing.”

Diocesan policies and procedures can be found at (see Diocesan Offices->Child Protection/Safe Environment).

Education, awareness key components of safe environment program
VIRTUS Protecting God’s Children Program has trained 28,677 people in Diocese


One of the key elements of a safe environment program is awareness – awareness of the dangers of child sexual abuse and how to recognize, report, and ultimately prevent it.

Beginning in 2003, the Diocese of Scranton implemented a multi-faceted national program called VIRTUS Protecting God’s Children. Sessions, which include videos and discussions, have been conducted throughout the 11 counties of the Diocese. Participants receive educational materials and continue their training by completing regular online lessons.

Since the inception of the VIRTUS program, 28,677 clergy, religious, staff, youth program volunteers, teachers, parents and other adults have been trained.

“It is my belief that we can prevent child abuse if we understand the issue and make a commitment to become involved. Providing education thru the VIRTUS Protecting God’s Children Program is a critical first step,” says Kathy Bolinski, Safe Environment Coordinator for the Diocese.

Kathy notes that sexual abuse is a difficult topic to discuss, and for many of the attendees, it is new and troubling information. However, she says, “caring adults must understand that they can and should intervene as soon as possible. The VIRTUS program addresses this issue in a sensitive manner. By providing the training, the Diocese of Scranton endeavors to inform and educate everyone who interacts with youth. It is both a moral and legal obligation.”

The success of the VIRTUS program is due in large measure to the many individuals who have volunteered to serve as facilitators, presenting the information to others at parish, school and other sites throughout the Diocese.

“I am blessed to have the assistance of many concerned individuals – their work is vital in our efforts to create strategies that protect children,” Kathy says.

Mariel Consagra, a parishioner of Saint Ann’s Basilica in Scranton and an experienced CCD teacher, says she thoroughly enjoys being a VIRTUS facilitator and feels it is a highly valuable and informative program.

“I have received many comments, even years after the presentation, by people who feel as strongly as I do about the benefits of this program,” she says. “They left a bit more secure in their new roles as protectors of God’s children in a very challenging world.”

Jennifer Frye’s experience as a VIRTUS facilitator for five years has also been very positive: “The vast majority of those taking the class have told me, either in person or in their evaluations, that they were so glad they took the training, because it really opened their eyes to a problem that most people don’t even think about. (Even for those who came reluctantly just to fulfill the requirement), by the end of the training, they have changed their minds because they did feel they received some valuable information.”

Jennifer, who is Director of Religious Education at Resurrection Parish in Muncy and married to Deacon Steve Frye, the deacon and pastoral associate at Saint Ann’s Parish in Williamsport, says “most people are glad to have learned the material; many are also shocked at the material, because, as we know, if you are not a child molester, you don’t think like a child molester. Most feel that the presentation is very well done, as do I.”

Through his work with children at the Wyoming Valley Catholic Youth Center for the past 33 years, currently as Executive Director, Mark Soprano has had to report a few instances of child sexual abuse, in each case committed by a family member. Other family members were shocked to hear the stories their children were telling. They were unaware of the warning signs that they could have seen if given the proper knowledge.

“I felt it was important to become involved and help spread the word about the signs of and prevention of the sexual abuse of children. Seeing this and the number of children we serve here at the CYC, it was a great opportunity for me to make a difference and maybe save a child from a terrible experience,” says Mark about his decision to become a VIRTUS facilitator.

Participants have told him they never thought of the many factors involved in child sexual abuse, and are outraged to see how perpetrators manipulate children and their parents. Each session brings new personalities, new topics and some fruitful discussions on issues facing our children today.

Mark recalls one participant who became very emotional and had to leave the room during the videos. She returned and explained that she was a victim of sexual abuse as a child at the hands of a family member. She was very open with the entire group and shared her experience with everyone – it was a very sad, yet eye-opening session.

“Overall, being a facilitator has been a very fulfilling experience,” Mark says “I’ve been able to meet many people from throughout the Diocese; most are very thankful for the information and grateful that the program is available to them.”

Addie Rocco’s past and present career and educational backgrounds made her a “great fit” to serve as a VIRTUS facilitator.  She was in law enforcement for over 15 years, most of them as a Scranton Police Officer, including a position as a School Resource Officer stationed at the Scranton State School for the Deaf.

Now she is the Director of Mission Integration and Spiritual Care at Saint Mary’s Villa Campus in Elmhurst and a member of Saint Eulalia’s Parish in Roaring Brook Township, where she is a cantor and Eucharistic Minister. In May of 2017, she earned a master’s degree in theology from Loyola University in partnership with the Diocese of Scranton’s Formation for Servant Leadership program. 

“I am a mother of four beautiful daughters. They say it takes a village to raise a child and I believe that it takes a community to protect our children,” Addie says. “I truly enjoy the proactive approach to the VIRTUS training. The program focuses on becoming aware of your surroundings and watching for warning signs. It is exactly what every parent and volunteer working with children should be trained to do as well as every grandparent.”

The VIRTUS videos make a great impact on the participants, she notes, especially as survivors of abuse give testimony and two offenders tell about their abuse and how they would groom their victims over a period of time.

“Many participants have come up to me after the training, relieved to have tools of knowledge to help combat child abuse,” Addie says. “The VIRTUS Program focuses on safety measures and warning signals to stop abuse before it starts. And knowledge is power.”

That power, the VIRTUS facilitators hope, will help to break the silence about sexual abuse and prevent children from becoming victims.

As Mark Soprano notes, “We may never see that or be able to measure it, but by offering the VIRTUS Program, we can say that many more adults are educated about the signs of child sexual abuse, and maybe someday they can use that information to prevent a child from enduring a terrible experience in their young lives.”






Evening-Prayer-and-Morning-Prayer-Atonement-and-Healing (1)







Kathleen Bolinski
Safe Environment Coordinator
Phone: 570-207-1453, ext. 1078
Fax: 570-207-1457

Heather Betts
Administrative Assistant

Office: 570-207-2238, ext. 1089

Noreen O’Connor
Administrative Assistant
Office: 570-207-2216, ext. 1071

Click here for a printable Background Check Application

Click here for a printable Code of Pastoral Conduct


Dear Lord, We ask You to bless these Your holy people who have participated in the Church’s efforts to help stop child sexual abuse. Open their hearts to Your call to be the “ears, eyes and voice of children and young people” everywhere. Give them the vision and grace needed to fulfill the special commitments that each of them has made to making their homes, churches, schools, communities and world a safer place for all God’s Children. Amen

Diocese of Scranton


Click Here for Policy for Response to Allegations of Sexual Abuse of Minors

Norma para Responder a Alegaciones de Abuso Sexual de Menores


Charter compliance will be accomplished by:

  • Insuring a thorough background screening is completed for all clergy, paid employees and volunteers that have direct contact and routine interaction with children. Routine interaction is defined as regular and repeated contact that is integral to a person’s employment or volunteer responsibilities. Background checks for employees are valid for 60 months. Volunteer background checks are valid for 60 months.
  • Providing training in recognizing and reporting any sign of child abuse to appropriate civil and Church authorities.
  • By holding all clergy, all paid employees and all volunteers accountable to a Christ-centered, pastoral code of conduct

Background Checks

Background checks are conducted to meet the requirements for the Charter and to comply with Pennsylvania law. The background screening is limited to a search for:

  • Verification of a person’s identity
  • Existence of a prior criminal record
  • Listing on the state sex offender registry

Background checks are needed for:

All clergy and religious

All paid employees having direct contact and routine interaction with children***

All volunteers who have direct contact and routine interaction with children

Do not forget to include coaches, field trip chaperones, cafeteria and religious education aides.

 ***Employees having no direct contact with children need an employment screening/background check obtained through a private vendor


Interested in supporting and protecting our children’s future? Then please consider attending the diocesan-sponsored VIRTUS: Protecting God’s Children for Adults Program.

During the three-hour training, a facilitator, who will teach you the tools and show you the resources to maintain a safe environment for all children, will incorporate techniques in a discussion-format to help you recognize the warning signs of child sexual abuse and how to respond to it appropriately and effectively.

Please consider joining your community at one of the locations listed on our VIRTUS page to take part in this vital program to help safeguard our most vulnerable and precious gifts: our children.  Thank you for your cooperation and your willingness to protect all our children and to keep them safe.

Click Here for the VIRTUS Training Session Schedule

For the Safe Environment requirements, please refer to the following charts:

Diocese of Scranton – Safe Environment Program 


Category of Personnel  Requirements

Priests, Deacons, Seminarians, Diaconate Applicants

Effective December 31, 2014





Clearances renewed every 60 months

  • PA State Police Criminal History Check
  • PA Dept. of Human Services Child Abuse History Certification
  • Federal FBI Fingerprinting
  • Protecting God’s Children VIRTUS Training
  • Signed Code of Pastoral Conduct
  • Mandated Reporter Training


Parish Employees 14 years of age or older who apply for a paid position where they have direct contact or routine interaction with children


**Minors between the ages of 14 and 17 who are employed in a paid position in a children’s program or activity and either supervise or have direct contact with children will be exempt from the FBI check requirement if they have resided within PA for the previous 10 years.  The minor and his/her parent must swear or affirm in writing that the minor is not ineligible for employment.

     IF the minor employee has not resided in PA for the entire 10 year period, they will need to present an FBI clearance that was processed at any time after becoming a PA resident. 

Effective December 31, 2014 

Clearances renewed every 60 months

  • PA State Police Criminal History Check
  • PA Dept. of Human Services Child Abuse History Certification
  • Federal FBI Fingerprinting
  • Protecting God’s Children VIRTUS Training (age 18 or older)
  • Signed Code of Pastoral Conduct
  • Mandated Reporter Training



Parish Employees  18 years of age or older who apply for a position where they

DO NOT have direct contact or routine interaction with children

Clearances renewed every 60 months

  • Background check by the Diocese thru Sterling BackCheck
  • Protecting God’s Children VIRTUS Training
  • Signed Code of Pastoral Conduct

Diocese of Scranton – Safe Environment Program
Volunteer Requirements 

*****    PA Law applies to all volunteer activity regardless of the number of hours therefore the 20 hours/year policy is no longer valid.


Category of Personnel  Requirements

Volunteers 18 years of age or older who  apply for an unpaid position as a volunteer where they have direct volunteer contact


Have lived in Pennsylvania continuously for the previous 10 years


Effective August 25, 2015 

Clearances renewed every 60 months

  • PA State Police Criminal History Check
  • PA Dept. of Human Services Child Abuse History Certification
  • Volunteer Affidavit
  • Protecting God’s Children VIRTUS Training
  • Signed Code of Pastoral Conduct
  • Mandated Reporter Training


****Effective July 25, 2015 the PA State Police Criminal History Check and the PA Child Abuse History Check are no cost to volunteers.


Volunteers 18 years of age or older who  apply for an unpaid position as a volunteer where they have direct volunteer contact


HAVE NOT lived in Pennsylvania continuously for the previous 10 years 

**Volunteers that are current residents of PA but who have not been residents for the entire previous 10 year period, will need to obtain the FBI check only once since establishing residency in PA.


Effective August 25, 2015 

Clearances renewed every 60 months

  • PA State Police Criminal History Check
  • PA Dept. of Human Services Child Abuse History Certification
  • FBI Federal Check with Fingerprinting
  • Protecting God’s Children VIRTUS Training
  • Signed Code of Pastoral Conduct
  • Mandated Reporter Training


****Effective July 25, 2015 the PA State Police Criminal History Check and the PA Child Abuse History Check are no cost to volunteers.


Direct Volunteer Contact – defined as “The care, supervision, guidance or control of children and routine interaction with children.  “Routine interaction with children” defined as “Regular and repeated contact that is integral to a person’s employment or volunteer responsibilities


To complete the required background checks, fill out the Diocese of Scranton background application on the link located in the top box and follow all instructions listed on the application. By submitting the diocesan application, the individual provides consent to the Safe Environment office to process the PA State Police clearance on their behalf.  They will then receive instructions for the PA Child Abuse Certification and FBI Federal check (if applicable). For information on requirements for new school employees, please refer to the Catholic Schools Home Page on the diocesan website.

******Individuals may also access the websites directly to complete the clearances.  The following links will direct you to the Clearances pages from the PA Department of Human Services:

PA State Police Criminal History Check – link for online application

PA Child Abuse History Certification – link for online application

FBI Federal Check with Fingerprinting – link for registration procedures

FBI Fingerprinting
Service Codes
Applicant Type Department
1KG756 Employee 14 or older
having direct contact with
Department of Human
1KG6ZJ  DHS Volunteer Department of Human

The results of the completed clearances should be turned in to the parish/school where the applicant performs their work or volunteer service.  All employees and those volunteers directly working with children must also sign a Pastoral Code of Conduct and attend the VIRTUS, Protecting God’s Children for Adults training session. Both the code and the training information can be found in the boxes above.

All of the clearances, signed pastoral codes and VIRTUS training records will be kept in the parish or school compliance binder.  The binders will be updated with current clergy and religious, paid employees and volunteers. A separate inactive file will be kept for individuals no longer working in that parish or school.

Click here for more information on the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People

Notice Regarding Reporting Sexual Abuse of a Minor

It is the policy of the Diocese of Scranton to report any allegation of sexual abuse of a minor to law enforcement. If you are a victim of sexual abuse committed by a priest, deacon, religious or lay employee or volunteer of the Diocese of Scranton, you are encouraged to immediately report the matter to law enforcement. If any priest, deacon, religious, lay employee or volunteer of the Diocese of Scranton has cause or reason to suspect that a minor has been subjected to any form of abuse, including child sexual abuse, the matter will be reported to law enforcement. In accordance with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Child Protective Services Laws, reports of suspected child abuse should also be made immediately by phone to the 24-HourChild Abuse hotline (ChildLine) at

1-800-932-0313 or electronically at

It is also the policy of the Diocese to adhere to all civil and state regulations. To this end, the Diocese is equally committed to adhering to the norms of the Code of Canon Law and to upholding the tenets of the USCCB Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, which includes supporting victims of sexual abuse in their pursuit of emotional and spiritual well-being. As such, information regarding an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor should also be reported to the Victim Assistance Coordinator Mary Beth Pacuska at (570-862-7551) or to Diocesan officials, including the Vicar General, Monsignor Thomas M. Muldowney, V.G., at (570-207-2269).

Aviso al Respecto de Reportar el Abuso Sexual de Un Menor de Edad

Es la norma de la Diócesis de Scranton reportar cualquier alegación de abuso sexual de un menor de edad a las autoridades. Si usted es una víctima de abuso sexual cometido por un sacerdote, diácono, religioso o empleado laico, o voluntario de la Diócesis de Scranton, usted está obligado a reportar el asunto inmediatamente a las autoridades de la ley. Si algún sacerdote, diácono, religioso, empleado laico o voluntario de la Diócesis de Scranton tiene sospecha de que un menor de edad ha sido sujeto a cualquier forma de abuso, incluyendo abuso sexual de menor de edad, el asunto será reportado a las autoridades de la ley.  De conformidad con la Comunidad de los Servicios de Protección Infantil de Pennsylvania Leyes, informes de sospecha de abuso de niños también debe hacerse inmediatamente por teléfono las 24 horas maltrato infantil hotline (ChildLine) al 1-800-932-0313 o electrónicamente en

Es la norma de la Diócesis defender todas las regulaciones civiles y del estado. Al fin de que la Diócesis esté comprometida igualmente a defender las normas del Código de Derecho Canónico y defender los principios de la Carta Para la Protección de Niños y Jóvenes (Conferencia de los Obispos Católicos de los Estados Unidos), lo cual incluye apoyar a las víctimas de abuso sexual en pos del bienestar emocional y espiritual. Por eso, información respecto a una alegación del asunto sexual de un menor de edad, debe ser reportada a la Coordinadora Diocesana de Asistencia para Las Víctimas Maria Beth Pacuska, a (570-862- 7551) o a los oficiales diocesanos incluyendo El Vicario General, Monseñor Thomas M. Muldowney, a (570-207-2269).

Diocese Establishes Safe Environment Advisory Committee 

As another component of our commitment to ensure the highest standards of safety for children, youth and vulnerable adults, the Diocese has formed a Safe Environment Advisory Committee.

Protection of these at-risk populations is the primary goal to be achieved by following the teachings of the Catholic Church and upholding the values of human dignity, integrity, mutual respect, servant leadership and accountability.

In 2016, an invitation to join the committee was sent to priests, deacons, Diocesan school principals, religious education staff, youth ministers and safe environment managers. Forty individuals representing all regions and ministries volunteered their time and expertise.

The initial meeting of the committee was held in October, 2016. At that time the committee developed a mission statement and identified short- and long-term goals. Recently, the committee convened at the Diocesan Pastoral Center in Scranton to continue its work.

The committee provides valuable feedback, support and recommendations on safe environment policies and practices. Through this effort, programs serving youth and vulnerable adults are strengthened. One of the committee’s first tasks is the development of a Youth Code of Conduct.

Cyber Safety Workshops in April 2017

In recognition of Child Abuse Prevention Month in April, the committee sponsored a workshop on cyber safety. Dr. Jayne Klenner, professor of information technology at King’s College and a member of the committee, offered two educational sessions for parents and caregivers of youth. The title of the workshop was “Tips and Tricks for Keeping Kids Safe Online.”