PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — When Jim Van Sickle was a boy, he suffered serial sexual abuse at the hands of a priest named David Poulson, but it would be 36 years before Van Sickle would come forward.
“Deep shame. Guilt. Fear of exposure,” he said.
In May, state Attorney General Josh Shapiro criminally charged Poulson with the assistance of the Diocese of Erie, which has been in the forefront of exposing the actions of its own priests and lay educators.
Erie Bishop Lawrence Persico is the only bishop to testify in front of Shapiro’s grand jury investigating decades of sexual abuse in six Pennsylvania dioceses, including Pittsburgh and Greensburg.
While a dozen priests are fighting to block the release of the grand jury report to protect their identities, Persico hasn’t waited.
To that end, the diocese has posted on its website a public disclosure list with the names of all 64 priests and religious with credible allegations of sexual abuse lodged against them.
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“It is the responsibility of the church first and foremost to ensure that individuals that are violating these laws are outed and identified,” Pittsburgh attorney Mark Rush said.
Rush leads a team of investigators who investigate all reports of abuse in the Erie Diocese, turning the credible claims over to law enforcement and making those names public. The Diocese added one more name Wednesday, placing retired Priest William Rice on administrative leave.
“Transparency leads to trust. I mean, you can’t rebuild a trust that may have been broken in certain areas without being transparent to your parishioners,” Rush said.
While a dozen priests and religious continue to block the release of the report, the Diocese of Erie is laying everything out on the table, hoping to regain that trust in the church.