Bishop Apologizes In Video Message To Local Parishioners
PITTSTON — The 11:30 a.m. Sunday Mass at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church featured mea culpas from church leaders and prayers for victims of sexual abuse.
It was the first Sunday since state Attorney General Josh Shapiro released a grand jury report about child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, that named more than 50 priests who worked for the Scranton diocese over several decades.
Inserted into the program for the services was a written statement from the Most Rev. Joseph Bambera, the Bishop of Scranton.
In the statement, titled “Keeping our Youth Safe,” Bambera outlined the diocese’s current standards for child protection.
All employees and volunteers must pass a criminal background check and obtain child abuse clearances, according to Bambera. The diocese maintains a zero tolerance policy on abuse and notifies law enforcement of all abuse allegations, he wrote.
“I am deeply sorry and grieved for the unsettling nature of the behaviors described in this ... investigation,” the bishop wrote. “I hope we can work together to restore trust in the church and move forward in a more positive way.”
The services also included a recorded video message from Bambera.
“Simply put, child sexual abuse cannot be tolerated and must be eradicated from our church,” the bishop said in the message. “You have a right to be angry; I am angry too. ”
The bishop apologized especially to those who suffered because of “misguided and inappropriate decisions by church leaders.”
The church’s pastor, the Rev. Joseph Elston, and assistant pastor, the Rev. Jackson Pinhero, offered prayers for the victims of abuse.
After Mass ended, members of the congregation gathered outside the church on William Street. Several of them declined to comment on the grand jury report or on the Rev. Bambera’s remarks.
One woman, a Pittston resident who declined to give her name, said the report did not surprise her, as she had dealings with several of the priests listed in it years ago. Current leaders of the diocese are trying their best to restore the church’s honor and reputation, the woman said.
“They are doing all they can do,” she said.
Joseph and Fortunata Musto of Duryea said the sex abuse scandal needed to be brought into the open, but it has not shaken their faith in the church or the diocese.
“I believe in Jesus Christ,” said Joseph Musto, a former Luzerne County judge. “This is his church.”
Throughout the history of the Catholic church, men have at times “done horrible things, but the church survived,” he said.
Fortunata Musto said the public needs to know about the disturbing pattern of abuse outlined in the report, but that not all church leaders should be regarded as complicit.
“I think it’s very important that people are aware of it,” she said. “But you have to remember there are a lot of good priests.”
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