Bishop at Mass of Reparation: Healing Comes Only After Cleansing

BRIDGEPORT— “The leadership of the Church has failed in many ways, it has been tarnished… Healing will take a long time,” Bishop Frank J. Caggiano said at the Clergy Mass of Reparation on the Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows this morning in response to the sexual abuse crisis in the Church.

More than 800 priests, deacons, religious and laity filled St. Augustine Cathedral for the Mass, which the Bishop announced earlier this month as a major spiritual step toward atonement and moving the diocese forward.

>> View schedule of other Reparation Masses throughout the Diocese

The Mass began in a somber and penitential way when the bishop removed his crosier and miter–the symbols of his authority– and prostrated himself before the altar as he led the congregation in the Confiteor and the singing of the Kyrie.

The first reading from the Book of Samuel, “in the sight of the LORD what David had done was evil…” was read by Peter Philipp, a member of the Healing Committee of the diocese and a survivor of clerical sexual abuse.

In his homily, the bishop said Church leaders failed victims and the faithful by “holding their tongues” and compounding the evil of abuse.

“Survivors of this evil, this sin, this crime deserve our love, support, and accompaniment They are a sign of courage in our midst, a sign of hope,” the bishop said, noting that he has become friends with members of the diocesan healing committee and is grateful for their witness.

The bishop began his homily by recalling an accident he sustained as an 8-year old boy that brought him to Coney Island Hospital with a gash on his forehead that left a scar.

He said he learned that day that healing can only begin “after cleansing, and that will not be achieved by a program, but by a heart that stays vacant for the Lord.”

“Those who were abused were deeply hurt by the crime of abuse. The scars that our sisters and brothers have endured may never go away,” he said.

“Let us not be afraid of our wounds. Let them become the cracks through which the grace of Christ gets in and one day will set us free.”

Photos by Lisa DeTullio Russell

The bishop said the Church can only move forward from this present crisis through reparation in the form of “works of mercy and acts of charity,” and by being transparent in all things.

“As AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) reminds us, we are only as sick as our own secrets, and we must end the culture of secrecy in the Church.”

The bishop said that priests who abused were “wolves in sheep’s clothing,” who betrayed the trust of the innocent in a way that burdened them for life.

The audience broke into applause twice during the solemn liturgy, first after the bishop’s homily, and at the end of Mass when the bishop called on the faithful to support the priests.

“The good and faithful priests need our support and prayers,” he said.

Before leading the prayer to St. Michael, the Archangel, which the bishop has mandated to be said in every parish after Mass, the bishop urged those in attendance to assist any victims of abuse who are still suffering.

“Encourage them to come forward. We need to accompany them. We will do this together one person at a time.”

The morning began with a Holy Hour that included the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament where the Rosary was said in five different languages.

Fr. Joseph Marcello, Pastor of St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Trumbull, served as Master of Ceremonies for the Mass. Music was provided by Dr. Samuel A. Schmitt, Director of Sacred Music and organist of The Cathedral Parish.

Kathryn Aaron was the Cantor. The Communion Meditation was guided by The Sacred Beauty Schola including Valerie Tarantino, Paul Chu, Josephine Landback, and Alexis Hoadley.