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Parishioners of Aurora Catholic church call for change from diocese in wake of PA sex abuse scandal

Posted at 5:55 PM, Sep 19, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-19 21:23:43-04

A letter from parishioners of an Aurora Catholic church was delivered Wednesday afternoon to the Diocese of Youngstown, demanding change in the wake a Pennsylvania grand jury report that found 1,000 children were sexually abused by more than 300 priests over several decades.

The letter from Our Lady of Perpetual Help was addressed to Bishop George Murry and was signed by approximately 650 members.

"We, the Parish Pastoral Council and parishioners of Our Lady of Perpetual help in Aurora, do hereby affirm our faith, call for decisive action by church leaders, and demand institutional change that will stop abusive, evil and illegal harm to others, especially children and vulnerable adults," the letter states.

Brian Cassidy, the chairman of the council, said the tipping point that led to the unusual and strongly-worded letter was the scathing Pennsylvania report released last month.

"I think it's time for us as a parish to rise up and say we deserve better. We want more from the Bishop," Cassidy said. "What happened in Pennsylvania - it's appalling and it's unacceptable."

In August, Bishop Murry sent a letter to parishioners indicating he was appalled, disgusted and angered over recent revelations, including the attorney general's report from Pennsylvania.

"I am very sorry that the Church has failed to act aggressively to eliminate this evil," he wrote.

He also called on all church-related laypeople, priests or bishops who have engaged in the sexual abuse of anyone to resign.

"I can assure you that to the best of my knowledge, there is no one in ministry in our diocese who has abused a child," he added.

However, Cassidy said there were past cases of abuse within the Diocese of Youngstown.

"We have every reason to believe there has been abuse and the Bishop has actually alluded to that in one of his press conferences," Cassidy said.

Bishop Murry estimated about 20 priests have been removed from the diocese for inappropriate conduct dating back to the 1950's.

Members of Our Lady of Perpetual Help requested the release of all names and current locations of priests or other employees credibly accused throughout the diocese's history.

Bishop Murry had already promised to release that information. On Wednesday morning, Msgr. John Zuraw got more specific, telling News 5 the names will be provided online and to the media by November 4.

In response, Cassidy said, "I think that's an excellent first step."

However, Cassidy said his church is making several other requests of the diocese, including reaching out to victims, survivors and their families without hiding behind any statute of limitations, convening an independent panel of lay experts to work with a victims' assistance coordinator and local authorities in response to abuse allegations, initiating a human resources committee of lay experts to review and improve training, and establishing a victim assistance fund to help restore lives.

"We can talk about praying. We can talk about giving great thoughts. This is all well and good, but in the end, there's structural problems in the diocese. There's structural problems in the Catholic Church that have to be dealt with," Cassidy said.

The letter requested a response from Bishop Murry within 10 days. He said he would meet with members of the church as soon as possible.

Read the full text of the letter here.