Diocese looking into actions of former bishop

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SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – Pope Francis is breaking his silence about Pennsylvania’s sex abuse scandal within the Catholic Church.

In a letter released Monday to more than 1.2 billion Catholics around the world, the pope said the church abandoned the “little ones.”

While he did acknowledge that the Catholic Church didn’t act in a timely manner to protect kids from predator priests, the pope didn’t outline specific steps for the church moving forward.

He did say “no effort must be spared.”

The pope’s letter comes just days after an explosive grand jury report named more than 300 predator priests in Pennsylvania detailing more than 1,000 victims.

The president of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, visited the city of Scranton Monday.

Tim Lennon’s stop comes as the Diocese of Scranton grapples with 59 priests being named “predators” and a former bishop’s handling of abuse allegations coming under fire.

Heather Hogan-Spencer grew up Catholic in Wilkes-Barre.

She stopped going to church when she heard rumors about priests abusing kids.

After reading last week’s grand jury report, which claims former Bishop James Timlin may have covered up allegations of abuse, she was sick.

“I think he should immediately be ex-communicated along with anyone else who was involved,” Heather Hogan-Spencer of Honesdale said.

Last week, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro called out Timlin by name for writing a letter of support to a priest accused of raping and impregnating a girl.

“I wouldn’t call him bishop. I’d call him ‘Jimmy’ and I’d say I don’t know how you can think you can be a representative of something that’s supposed to be good and holy,” Hogan-Spencer said.

Last Friday, the current bishop in the Diocese of Scranton Joseph Bambera, instructed the Diocese of Scranton’s independent review board to do a formal assessment of Timlin’s handling of previous abuse allegations.

Bambera also referred the matter to the Vatican.

Tim Lennon, president of SNAP, isn’t hopeful that will result in any punishment.

“They haven’t in 70 years so I have no confidence that they’re going to do anything in the future,” Tim Lennon, president of SNAP said.

An attorney for Bishop Timlin offered a written response to the grand jury report.

The response said while Timlin doesn’t agree with all of the conclusions, he “sadly acknowledges” that his and the diocese efforts were “imperfect.”

In 2007, Eyewitness News spoke to Bishop Timlin about sexual abuse allegations in the church.

It came the same day the Diocese of Scranton agreed to pay $3 million to settle a civil lawsuit brought by a victim of Father Albert Liberatore who is now named in the grand jury report.

At that time, there were complaints about other potential victims.

Eyewitness News reporter Joe Holden asked Bishop Timlin, “Bishop, what about all those allegations?”

Bishop James Timlin responded, “I’m not going to get into it and run the whole case again. That wouldn’t be proper but I think we did the best we could.”

Bishop Timlin turns 91 years old this month.

He has not yet done any interviews since the grand jury report has been released.

Right now, he’s not authorized to represent the Diocese of Scranton in any way.

The internal review over his conduct is expected to be finished by the end of the month.

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