LI’s new bishop accused of covering up priest sex abuse allegations in new report

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ROCKVILLE CENTRE -

Long Island's new bishop is named in a 900-page report that says 1,000 children and possibly more, were molested by about 300 Pennsylvania priests during the last 70 years.

Bishop John Barres, who was the bishop in Allentown, Pennsylvania from 2009 to 2016, is not accused of molesting any children. The pope named Barres as bishop of the Diocese of Rockville Centre early last year.

However, he is linked to Father Michael Lawrence, who was accused of abusing young boys on two separate occasions.

READ THE REPORT

The first came in 1982 when a dad complained that Lawrence had touched his 12-year-old son's genitals. By 1984, the accused predator was back working in the church.

The second allegation against Father Lawrence came in November 2009, when Barres was the bishop that oversaw him. In that complaint, the boy said he was approximately 13 at the time of the alleged abuse.

Lawrence had claimed he thought the boy was 16 and that he was merely helping the alleged victim put on a costume for the parish play. Lawrence said that any inappropriate contact would have been accidental.

MORE: Priest molestation report reopens old wounds for LI man

Barres did not take action against Lawrence. Instead, in 2014, the bishop wrote a letter to the Vatican recommending that he would not seek removal of Lawrence from the priesthood, recommending retired status.

Father Lawrence died in April 2015.

A statement from the diocese says Bishop Barres stands by his judgment…that it was more important to keep Lawrence in the [monitored rural facility for sex offenders] and away from children than remove him from the clerical state.

The statement also says that Barres informed the Vatican “in detail of both of the complaints. The persons who wrote the report appears to have accidently [sic] misread the letter they cite, and did not reach out and ask the Bishop about the situation.”

MORE: Diocese statement on grand jury report 

Also named in the two-year investigation is former Pennsylvania priest Thomas Bender. Bender was convicted of driving to Levittown in 2006 to meet a teen boy for sex. That boy turned out to be an undercover Nassau police detective. Bender is accused of molesting multiple children as early as the 1960s.

The Pennsylvania Grand Jury report gives graphic details on cases of sexual assault to rape and child pornography, and priests working together to identify victims to other priests – all dating back to the 1940s.

They admit the number could even be much higher since some records were lost and some victims never came forward.

The two-year report accuses the church of systematically hiding reports of the abuse. Meanwhile, some of those accused of the cover up were promoted.

So far, Pope Francis has not spoken out about the bombshell report. However, the pontiff has taken action in the past on priests and church officials accused of sexual abuse. 

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