“We need the Church. It is there that we find Jesus in the Eucharist.
We need, therefore, to find our way forward.”
---Bishop Robert P. Deeley
PORTLAND---“It has been a storm of terrible proportions undermining trust and shaking the ground under us, our very faith.”
The words of Bishop Robert P. Deeley fell upon a solemn assembly at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland on Friday, September 14, during a special Mass on the Day of Prayer and Repentance that served as an opportunity for reparation for the sins and crimes of bishops in failing to protect young and innocent people in cases of sexual abuse of minors.
The bishop felt that it was his responsibility, as Maine’s bishop, to do penance for the group of bishops that have abused their power and trust.
“The abuse belongs to the bishops who either committed these heinous acts or failed to deal with them appropriately when they were made known to them,” said Bishop Deeley during his homily. “By the goodness of many of you, however, I have been reminded of who we are together as Church. The Lord entrusts us to each other so that we might strengthen each other in difficult times.”
Bishop Deeley acknowledged that people in the Church are losing faith in the ability of the Church to respond to these terrible revelations.
“The letters I have received from many of you indicate that. They also clearly show me that the sin of one person affects all the community. Our prayer today, then, is an attempt to ask forgiveness for sins committed, even those committed by others.”
The bishop told the hundreds gathered that prayer is important in the process of being aware of sin and more open to renewed conversion, but he acknowledged that action is crucial, a truth the Diocese of Portland embraced many years ago in confronting the sexual abuse crisis in the Church. Since the implementation of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People in 2002, the diocese’s programs, safeguards, and independent audits have led to a safe environment for all those who seek a place to draw near to God.
“There have been no substantiated allegations of sexual abuse of a minor since these controls were adopted,” said Bishop Deeley. “We are vigilant to maintain a safe environment. In 2002, the diocese requested assistance from the Office of the Attorney General in Maine to conduct an investigation similar to what has just been completed in Pennsylvania. The protocols suggested by the Attorney General’s office are included in those controls and policies which have kept our diocese a safe environment for our young people.”
But the present situation in other dioceses has led to people leaving the Church.
“That is deeply sad,” said the bishop. “What Jesus gives us is such a gift. His message, his presence with us, his way of life give meaning to life. As such, I am grateful for your presence here today. I understand the anger and disappointment of others who are not here. I will continue to try to help them to find the ability to trust. I encourage you to hold fast to what is good and true in our faith. Jesus heals us and brings meaning to our lives. He is our hope and our truth. We need the Church. It is there that we find Jesus in the Eucharist. We need, therefore, to find our way forward.”
Bishop Deeley noted that September 14 was selected as the Day of Prayer and Repentance because it is also the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.
“The cross of Christ is a promise of hope and life. It is through the humiliation of the cross that Jesus shows himself as our Savior. The cross is a manifestation of God’s love for us, and a call to see in the cross the way of life for us as followers of the Lord. To be of service to each other is the way in which we show the hope of the cross and its power over sin and death. There is profound truth contained in our faith.”
During the Mass, prayers were offered for:
- Church leaders, that they may cooperate with civil authorities and other professionals to restore trust by ensuring transparency and accountability;
- justice, healing, and peace for all victims/survivors of sexual abuse;
- all who minister in the Church and for all who desire to answer the call to the priesthood and consecrated life that they may live lives reflecting the holiness and integrity demanded by the Gospel;
- an end to all forms of abuse within society;
- parents, guardians, and all who teach and inspire our children;
- all who work in the healing professions that their efforts may contribute to creating a civilization of love and a culture of safety and respect for all persons;
- and renewed hope in the face of sin and scandal that the Church may trust in the cross as the source of reconciliation and new life.
“Touched by the love of God manifest on the cross, we ask our Blessed Mother who stood at the foot of that cross to intercede for us and guide our resolve to do penance and to restore trust through the vigilance we bring to the care and safety of all in our Church,” said the bishop.
Special Masses, events, and programs were held at churches around Maine on September 14 to observe the Day of Prayer and Repentance, including an evening of prayer and repentance held at both Holy Rosary Church in Caribou and St. Mary Church in Presque Isle praying for victims of clergy sexual abuse. A 40-hour devotional to also pray for victims of abuse and the Church began on Wednesday at St. Mary Church in Bath and concluded on Friday afternoon.
As always, Bishop Deeley encourages anyone who may have information about any case of sexual abuse of a minor by a Church representative to contact civil authorities and Michael Magalski, Director of the Office of Professional Responsibility for the Diocese of Portland, at (207) 321-7836 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.