Bishop John Barres, bishop of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, was named in a grand jury report released yesterday as one of the leaders of the Diocese of Allentown who allegedly participated in covering up the clergy sex abuse scandal there. (See report below.)
Barres, who was installed as bishop of the Diocese of Rockville Centre in January 2017, served as bishop of the Allentown, Pennsylvania diocese from 2009 to 2016.
The Pennsylvania grand jury report details the findings of an 18-month investigation and concludes that more than 300 priests across the state sexually abused children over the course of seven decades and they were protected by church leaders who covered it up.
The grand jury found that Diocese of Allentown administrators, including the bishops, had knowledge of clergy sexual abuse and nonetheless continued to place accused abusers in ministry positions. The diocese made secret settlements with victims that required their silence, according to the grand jury report. Diocese administrators, including the bishops, “often dissuaded victims from reporting to police or conducted their own, deficient investigations without reporting crimes against children to the proper authorities,” the report states.
Barres is one of six bishops of the Diocese of Allentown named in the grand jury report, covering the period from 1961 to the present day.
In one specific case involving Barres, the bishop did not seek the removal of a priest who was a confessed child molester when the Allentown diocese received a report in November 2009 of abuse by the priest of a 13-year-old boy in 1986, according to the grand jury report. The diocese confronted the priest, Michael Lawrence, about the report of the 1986 incident — four years after Lawrence confessed to a previous incident of molesting a 12-year-old boy. In 2009, Lawrence denied the allegation. Barres did not inform the Vatican of the priest’s earlier crime and confession. In December 2014, Barres in a letter to the Vatican said the would not seek the removal Lawrence from the priesthood. Lawrence at that time was living in a “permanent residence” where he was living “a permanent life of prayer and penance,” Barres wrote.
“Having prayed over this matter, and having studied the Brief of his Advocate and the current assessment of the psychologist, I have concluded that it it best that the Reverend Michael Lawrence remain under this supervised way of life,” Barres wrote.
A spokesperson for the Diocese of Rockville Centre did not return phone and text messages seeking comment.
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