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FORT WAYNE, Ind. — The Bishop of Fort Wayne and South Bend, once the Bishop of Harrisburg, said the Catholic Church has failed the victims of sexual abuse by priests in several diocese in Pennsylvania. 

A grand jury report detailed accounts of several incidents involving abuse by over 300 priests dating back seven decades. Kevin Rhoades was the Bishop of Harrisburg, Pa., from 2004 to 2009. 

The report says Rhoades notified law enforcement and his superiors about allegations against two priests and warned they could create “scandal” within the diocese. Rhoades called the allegations “heartbreaking and appalling.”

“The Church failed you,” Rhoades said to the victims Friday. “As leaders we have an obligation to protect those who cannot protect themselves. As a bishop I have worked to expose and punish those responsible for abuse.”

The grand jury report details two cases of sexual abuse within the Harrisburg Diocese under Rhoades’ watch. He said he was shocked to find out about the abuse, one of which was by a priest he did not even know within the diocese.

“I didn’t know him. I didn’t even know he was in the diocese,” Rhoades said. “At that point the bishop of Erie asked me to right a letter to Rome asking for his dismissal from the ministry. I was very upset and angry he was in my diocese.” 

Rhoades said both Rome and local law enforcement were made aware of that particular case of abuse. 

As for the other case mentioned in the report, Rhoades said that one was not reported to law enforcement. This is because he said this case had occurred before he was made bishop of Harrisburg.

“He had been removed from ministry over 10 years,” Rhoades continued. “The previous Bishop had forced him to retire and I didn’t know why. When I found out why he was forced to retire I learned he was living a life of prayer and penance in Delaware.”

But then Rhoades said he had received a new allegation against this same priest. He said he reported the incident to the Dover Diocese and even the Vatican. 

He said due to the priest’s old age, his state of health, and the fact he had been living of life of prayer and penance since 1975 it was his “opinion” not to report the incidents to law enforcement. 

Rhoades reassured those in the Fort Wayne-South Bend Diocese that all current reports of sexual abuse by members of the clergy within his diocese are reported to law enforcement and the Vatican immediately.

(Photo by Alex/iStock/Getty Images)