Greensburg Catholic bishop tells abuse victims: ‘I grieve for you, and I grieve with you’
In the wake of a tumultuous week of fallout from a grand jury report detailing decades of child sexual abuse in six Catholic dioceses across Pennsylvania, Bishop Edward Malesic asked forgiveness from every member of the Greensburg diocese who attended Mass services on Sunday.
“I grieve for you, and I grieve with you,” Malesic said to victims abused by clergy in a pre-recorded homily played for parishioners in the diocese’s 78 parishes spread throughout Armstrong, Fayette, Indiana and Westmoreland counties. “I am truly proud of the victims who came forward to tell their story, and I’d encourage others to do the same.”
An edited version of the grand jury report released Tuesday identified 301 “predator priests” in the dioceses of Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh and Scranton. Of those, 20 served in the Greensburg diocese and 99 in the Pittsburgh diocese.
Parishioners at Blessed Sacrament Cathedral in downtown Greensburg were told in advance that the bishop would “speak frankly,” and families with younger children were given an opportunity to go to the church’s social hall.
“Looking back, we should have known better, and we should have done better,” Malesic said of the way the diocese dealt with abusive priests. “But we didn’t.”
Cricket Rizzo of Greensburg attended the 9 a.m. service and said she thought Malesic’s homily was sincere and heartfelt.
“I think the most important thing the church can do is offer support, love, encouragement and transparency,” Rizzo said. “I think what he said -- that this behavior won’t be tolerated -- is very important.”
Keith Houser of Greensburg said he believed the bishop’s message struck the right tone but was “kind of boilerplate.”
“We sort of expected it,” Houser said. “I don’t see how they had any other choice. I was wondering how they’d get the message out to everyone, and now I know.”
Malesic said the grand jury report describes events that happened years ago, and that the diocese today “has evolved far beyond the church described in the report.” He said the greater Catholic family had an opportunity to “re-energize ourselves and our faith” moving forward, and offered a hand to those hurting.
“If you want it, we stand ready to help you heal as much as possible,” Malesic said.
The full homily is available at the diocese website.