Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro criticized Bishop Alfred Schlert’s handling of the sexual abuse crisis in a Sept. 25 visit to the newsroom of the Morning Call newspaper in Allentown.
The following is a summary of Shapiro’s specific criticisms, along with responses from the Diocese of Allentown.
Shapiro: Bishop Schlert moved predators around.
Diocese: False. Bishop Schlert has never moved a known perpetrator.
Shapiro: Bishop Schlert helped enable the cover-up.
Diocese: False. That never happened. In 2002, then-Monsignor Schlert played a key role in turning over all files on abusers to the five District Attorneys of the Diocese. The Diocese of Allentown was the first Diocese in Pennsylvania to take such a step.
Shapiro: The Diocese investigated a victim, causing her additional pain.
Diocese: False. Bishop Schlert never investigated or discredited the victim to which the Attorney General was referring. He has never investigated or discredited any victim, nor has he ever instructed anyone to do so. Bishop Schlert has always viewed victims as sincere, dignified, and extremely courageous for coming forward. He has always treated them with respect, and always will. For those who suggest otherwise, nothing could be further from the truth. He has made it a priority to meet with victims and will continue to do so.
Shapiro said he was referring to the case of a high-school girl assaulted by Fr. Francis Fromholzer, and the fact that a lawyer provided disparaging information on the victim to the Diocese. The Diocese did not solicit this information. The Diocese never investigated the victim or attempted to discredit her. The Diocese never acted on the unsolicited information. In fact, after the Diocese met with the victim in 2002, the Diocese removed the priest from ministry. Further, the Diocese did not disclose the information publicly. It was provided to the Grand Jury as a result of a subpoena. It was the Grand Jury Report that made this information about the victim public.
Shapiro: Bishop Schlert was rewarded (promoted to Bishop) after not doing the right thing on clergy abuse.
Diocese: False. During his time as Vicar General, then-Monsignor Schlert was a leader in implementing many steps to keep children safe, including playing a key role in establishing background checks for clergy and volunteers, and implementing training for adults, education for children, clear policies and strict codes of conduct, as well as more rigorous standards and training for candidates preparing for the Priesthood. Monsignor Schlert was instrumental in establishing a Victim Assistance Coordinator, he formalized assistance for victims, and he named safe environment coordinators.
Bishop Schlert’s actions since becoming Bishop a little more than a year ago demonstrate that he is strong and decisive when an allegation occurs: He immediately notifies law enforcement, he immediately removes priests from ministry, and the Diocese acts with transparency.
Shapiro: Bishop Schlert’s conduct is abhorrent, and it is unconscionable that he is Bishop of Allentown.
Diocese: On the contrary, rather than being a detriment to his leadership, Bishop Schlert’s experience as a leader in the Diocese for these many years in confronting the horrors of sexual abuse of minors has prepared him to respond to this moment in the Church’s history.
As the Attorney General himself said, as quoted in The Morning Call on May 23, 2018, “The position of Bishop Alfred Schlert of Allentown … to not mount any legal challenge that would silence the voices of victims of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church is the right decision.”