SCRANTON — As the Church continues to respond to the tragic reality of sexual abuse of minors by clergy, for the second year in a row, the Diocese of Scranton held a Mass for Atonement and Healing.
Bishop Joseph C. Bambera was the principal celebrant and homilist for the Mass, which was held on Monday, September 16, 2019 at 12:10 p.m. at the Cathedral of Saint Peter in Scranton.
The Mass is held near the Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows, which recognizes the Blessed Mother’s intense suffering and grief during the passion and death of our Lord.
During his homily, Bishop Bambera reflected on the year since the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report was released in 2018. He once again asked for God’s healing, mercy and forgiveness, calling what happened one of the darkest moments in the history of the Catholic Church and certainly in our 150 year history as a Diocese.
“One year later, I can stand before you and tell you that we have done a lot to change and to continue to create a safe place in the Church, especially for our young people. We’ve trained over 30,000 staff and volunteers and continue to cooperate with law enforcement. We attempt to be as transparent and open in our actions as we possibly can be and we have established a fund to compensate, in some small way, survivors of abuse,” Bishop Bambera said.
“Yet, one year later, there is still pain. A year can’t change a lifetime of suffering. Survivors of abuse continue to be burdened by the ramifications of such inhuman behavior on the part of those who should have been trustworthy,” the Bishop added.
“None of us will ever know the depth of the pain that survivors endure. Yet, in courageously sharing their pain, so many of them with whom I’ve spoken this past year have taught me a great lesson. They’ve taught me that if the Church is truly intent upon creating safe environments for its children and all of God’s people, we (the Church and especially Church leaders) must never forget or allow time to numb us to the pain that was so willfully inflicted on innocent lives by those who postured themselves as God’s representatives and ministers of his love and mercy. Indeed, an authentic recognition of the pain of that cross is the only thing that can truly prompt us to change and to create a Church deserving of people’s trust.”
The Mass for Atonement and Healing wasn’t just focused on the survivors of sexual abuse, the Bishop prayed for all people who suffer, whether it be from cancer or other illnesses or other types of abuse.
“God could have chosen to save the world in any way he wanted. Yet he chose to relate to it – to us who are made in his very image and likeness – through his son Jesus, who took on human flesh and substance. He chose to have Jesus carry a cross so that we, in our suffering, might discover a God who understands because he too carried a cross – a God who suffers with us – and a God who overcomes suffering with resurrection and life,” Bishop Bambera said.
While noting that the sexual abuse crisis has understandably caused some people to step away from the Church, the Bishop ended with a pledge.
“As Bishop of this local Church, I deeply apologize for the pain that has been inflicted upon far too many of you by leaders of our Church. Once again, I ask for forgiveness from the countless numbers of you who have suffered so much. I pledge to continue to do all within my power to create a safe place for our children and for all of our people to worship, to pray, to learn and to grow in their faith. I pray that we will all find hope in those wonderful words from Saint Paul’s second letter to the Church at Corinth as he speaks to us of the treasure of faith:
We hold this treasure in earthen vessels that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us. We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body. (II Corinthians 4:7-11)
If you would like to read Bishop Bambera’s full homily from the Mass for Atonement and Healing, visit www.dioceseofscranton.org.