RICHMOND, Va. (CNS) — In celebrating the Diocese of Richmond’s first Mass of Atonement for victims of abuse Sept. 14, Bishop Barry C. Knestout apologized to victims of clergy sexually abuse, likening church leadership to Jesus’ condemnation of the Pharisees.
“Leadership was not listening to the cries of those who had suffered this abuse, who were blind to it, and who were often like Jesus’ own condemnation of the Pharisees as whitewashed sepulchers — clean on the outside, but full of a dead man’s bones within,” he said.
During the Mass attended by more than 300 people in the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, Bishop Knestout said the church must confess its sins and express contrition for what it has done and failed to do.
“I am sorry for those who have suffered abuse. I am sorry to your families, who have had to carry that with you,” he said. “I am sorry to this church of Richmond, the people of God who see the church torn apart, that we failed so miserably and are shamed before the whole world because we were called to so much more, but we fell short, so far short, of what we should have done.”
The bishop said that if healing is to occur, reparation is required of the church. Referring to what he stated in his first pastoral letter, “From Tragedy to Hope,” issued earlier that day, Bishop Knestout said he would make public the names of clergy “credibly accused” of abuse because victims “need to see that someone is being held to account for the damage they have done in order for the victims to move forward.”
That list, he said, would be the result of an independent review of clergy personnel files, working with the Diocesan Review Board, to assure, “We can be held accountable.”
Bishop Knestout also announced funds were being set aside for an abuse victims’ assistance fund to provide counseling to those who have experienced abuse from clergy.
Noting the church “needs to see Christ” in abuse victims, Bishop Knestout said, “They cry out to God for justice, to be made right, to be repaired. God hears those voices even when leaders in the church didn’t, and we know of the terrible nature of those sins and the terrible failure of leadership.”
He said all that had been done — and not done — in responding to victims “had to be brought to light.”
“Because it is only in the truth that we can make a passage through that in some kind of repair, some kind of restoration, some kind of renewal,” the bishop said. “In our deepest longing and hope, we seek forgiveness and reconciliation.”
Editor’s Note: The text of Bishop Knestout’s pastoral letter is available here.
Olszewski is the editor of The Catholic Virginian, newspaper of the Diocese of Richmond.
Join the CatholicPhilly.com family
CatholicPhilly.com works to strengthen the connections between people, families and communities every day by delivering the news people need to know about the Catholic Church, especially in the Philadelphia region, and the world in which we live.
By your donation in any amount, you and hundreds of other people become part of our mission to inform, form in the Catholic faith and inspire the thousands of readers who visit every month.
Here is how you can help:
- A $100 gift allows us to present award-winning photos of Catholic life in our neighborhoods.
- A $50 gift enables us to cover a news event in a local parish, school or Catholic institution.
- A $20 gift lets us obtain solid faith formation resources that can deepen your spirituality and knowledge of the faith.
- A small, automated monthly donation means you can support us continually and easily.
Won't you consider making a gift today?
Please join in the church's vital mission of communications by offering a gift in whatever amount that you can ― a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more, or a monthly donation. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community and sustain CatholicPhilly.com as your trusted news source. Thank you in advance!
Make your donation by credit card here:
Or make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103