Bishop Sean Rowe of the Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania has written to announce the latest in his quest to locate any other persons abused by his predecessor, the late Donald Davis, who served from 1974 to 1991, and whose deeds were brought to light in a letter by Rowe in July of this year.
REGARDING BISHOP DAVIS
Letter from the Bishop (September 12)
September 12, 2010
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
In early July, I had the difficult responsibility of informing you that one of my predecessors, the late Donald Davis, had sexually abused at least four young girls during his tenure as our bishop from 1974-1991. At that time, I asked other women who had been sexually abused by Bishop Davis to come forward privately or publicly. My hope was to listen to their stories and work with them toward whatever degree of reconciliation they desired.
I quickly heard from five women. Three had been sexually abused by Bishop Davis as girls. Two more had been harassed and intimidated as adults. I disclosed these developments in a statement on July 13 and pledged that I would make a full report at the end of the summer. As it happened, I have received no additional reports since then.
Here in the Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania, therefore, we now know of seven women whom Bishop Davis abused as girls and two who were harassed as adults. I have had conversations with all five of the women who contacted me since my invitation in early July, and they have told me that their only interest in coming forward has been in helping me arrive at a fuller picture of the scope of Bishop Davis' abuse. I want to thank them for their courage and to apologize to them once again for the abuse visited on them in what should have been an atmosphere of safety and love.
Since my initial announcement, I have also been in contact with the bishops of other dioceses in which Bishop Davis served as a priest or lived in retirement so that they could pursue this matter as they saw fit. I will speak with each of them further at the House of Bishops meeting in Phoenix this week.
If there are other victims who are still considering whether to come forward, I urge them to contact me. As I wrote in my initial letter, I cannot undo the grievous wrongs that Bishop Davis has done, nor take away the pain of his victims, but I can do my best to ensure that this diocese continues to tell the truth and seek healing and reconciliation for those who have been harmed.
I am grateful for the support I have received both from within the diocese and the wider church during this process. I believe that our diocese now has a particular responsibility to observe the highest possible standards in dealing with the issue of sexual misconduct. Having learned a painful lesson, we are intensifying the education and training of all of our clergy, staff and volunteers who work with children. This is in keeping with our recently strengthened misconduct policy, which is based on the model policy of the Church Pension Group.
We will continue to pursue and pray for reconciliation with all of Bishop Davis' victims, both those we now know about and those who may still come forward. Even as we seek healing for the past, we will also dedicate ourselves to ensuring that the Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania is a place where children are respected and nurtured, where people can come with their deepest wounds and vulnerabilities and be safe, and where we show the power of God's love to all among whom we live and serve.
Most Sincerely Yours In Christ,
The Rt. Rev. Sean W. Rowe