Sisters of St. Joseph in Erie, PA issue statement regarding allegations against deceased sister

First and foremost, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Northwestern Pennsylvania acknowledge and apologize for abuse that occurred within our religious community.  We are filled with deep sorrow that such horror and pain was ever inflicted, and it is unconscionable for a member of our religious community to have been inflicting pain rather than healing.  Our hearts and prayers go out to all victims and survivors of sexual abuse, especially the survivor whose courageous report has brought us to this moment.  We hear you, believe you, and want to put an end to child abuse forever. 

Upon receipt of an abuse report in May 2018, we retained the Pittsburgh-based law firm of K&L Gates LLP to conduct an independent investigation, giving it unrestricted access to our files and personnel and instructing it to follow the evidence, wherever it may lead.  K&L Gates collected and analyzed numerous documents, conducted multiple interviews, and performed an unbiased evaluation of all evidence developed by its process.  Ultimately, K&L Gates determined that Charlotte Skeabeck, otherwise known as Sister Mary Carmel Skeabeck, SSJ, sexually abused a student on numerous occasions in the late 1950s while teaching at Villa Maria Academy in Erie, Pennsylvania. 

We referred this sister’s name for publication on the Roman Catholic Diocese of Erie’s public disclosure list to both recognize the harm caused and to encourage other individuals with any knowledge of this case (or other cases) to come forward.  Her date of death, photograph, and assignment history are provided to further aid these efforts.  Many historical records are sparse or non-existent, so we ask anyone who has previously reported abuse (particularly, pre-2002) or witnessed misconduct by a member of our congregation to report today.

We understand that no apology, investigation, or counseling will ever undo what has happened.  We humbly offer our sincere efforts to fully cooperate with law enforcement, shine light on past misconduct, aid in healing, and take steps to ensure that today’s children do not have to endure any abuse now or in the future.

Compassion and healing for abuse survivors, as well as protection of children and vulnerable adults, are top priorities for the Sisters of St. Joseph. We strongly encourage anyone who has experienced sexual abuse by a member of our congregation, or any affiliated employee or volunteer, to contact law enforcement.  You can report abuse to the Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General’s Clergy Abuse Hotline by calling 1-888-538-8541.  In addition, anyone can report suspected abuse of a present-day child by anyone to PA ChildLine by calling 1-800-932-0313.  The line is open 24/7, and callers may choose to remain anonymous.  To report abuse directly to the independent investigators retained by the Sisters, e-mail Victims or concerned individuals also are welcome to contact the Sisters of St. Joseph directly to report abuse at 814-452-8903. Counseling assistance is also available for survivors at no charge and available by contacting the Victim Assistance line at 814-452-8903.