Statement of Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger

Sun, Mar 1st 2020 12:15 pm

"It is clear that my efforts to address the disappointment and anger voiced by some over my decision to allow certain priests of the Diocese of Buffalo who have been credibly accused of sexual abuse to participate last week in a private Mass for priests have not been sufficient.

"First, I wish to reiterate that I deeply regret the pain and further disillusionment that this private gathering of priests - which included those not in good-standing with the Diocese - has caused to victim-survivors who rightly demand justice and accountability for the horrific and lasting harm they have experienced.

"Those priests who are not in good-standing with the Diocese and who are awaiting their cases to be duly adjudicated by the Holy See are, however, allowed by Canon law to celebrate Mass privately. Should the Holy See decide to laicize them, they would then be removed from the clerical state permanently. The Mass in which I allowed them to participate was exactly that - a private Mass at the beginning of Lent for the priests of the Diocese which emphasized the need to atone for and work toward the healing of all who have been harmed by the scourge of sexual abuse by members of the Catholic clergy.

"In no way, should this gathering be regarded as a restoration of the faculties of those suspended priests to celebrate the sacraments publicly. Nor, should it in any way be interpreted as disregarding the grave emotional, physical and spiritual harm they inflicted on innocent persons whose allegations have been determined to be credible.

"The sacred liturgy is by nature a gathering of sinners - a place where all must be welcomed and have a place around the table of the Lord who died for our sins: those who have failed to live according to the requirements of Christian discipleship; those who have hurt and harmed others in ways great and small; those who have committed acts that violate not only the Commandments of God and the teachings of Jesus Christ, but the laws that govern our society. The sacraments of our Church are not a reward for good behavior, but are intended to convey the mercy and grace of God for all who seek forgiveness and the assurance that our brokenness - our grave moral and spiritual failings - do not alone define us as His daughters and sons. 

"In meeting regularly with victim-survivors of sexual abuse, I have expressed my view that what they have experienced is evil and, in many cases, criminal in nature. Their sense of betrayal and feelings of outrage are fully justified and cause our entire Church shame and intense sorrow. There can be no tolerance for any act of abuse or harassment by a member of the clergy, Diocesan lay employee, volunteer or a bishop, toward any person, child or adult. Moreover, I am committed to accompanying any and all who have been harmed on the long journey toward healing and to providing them the resources and assistance they require to fulfill their need for justice and restitution. "I welcome an opportunity to meet with those who have every right to express their views - however critical of me personally - with the hope that we can find a constructive path forward in our constant effort to convey true repentance and bring about lasting reform and renewal of this local Church."