PORTLAND, Maine — Seeking forgiveness for past harm and offering prayers for the healing of victim/survivors while reaffirming the Diocese of Portland’s pledge to provide a safe and peaceful environment for children were central themes at the Day of Prayer and Penance Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on Wednesday, March 12.
Bishop Robert P. Deeley, J.C.D., asked the clergy of the diocese to mark a day of contrition for past incidents of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.
“The failure to deal with this problem in a more forthright manner has been a terrible scandal and has gravely harmed those who were abused. Our victim/survivors have suffered damage, and the first purpose of our prayer today has to be for them,” said Bishop Deeley during his homily. “We entrust those who are the victim/survivors of this abuse to our merciful and loving God, asking for their healing.”
Bishop Deeley thanked victim/survivors who might be in attendance for their presence, and offered an apology for the pain they have suffered. He also restated the Diocese of Portland’s commitment to protect God’s children.
“We cannot change the past, but we can do everything possible to see that history does not repeat itself,” said Bishop Deeley. “In that light, true repentance can be shown in serious vigilance. That vigilance must, above all, be attentive in assuring that our Church is a safe environment for our children.”
An independent, on-site audit of safe environment procedures conducted in September 2013 found the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland in full compliance with the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. TheCharter mandates that any representative of the Church who sexually abuses a minor be permanently removed from ministry. It also calls for the reporting of all complaints to civil authorities, thorough investigations of all complaints and reimbursement of therapy for victims/survivors. Since the implementation of the Charter in 2002, over 14,000 Catholic Church employees, volunteers, priests and educators in Maine who work with children have been trained in a safe environment program, which includes mandatory background checks.
Despite the strides made in recent years, Bishop Deeley reminded the assembly why the annual gathering for prayer is needed.
“Humbly I ask, then, in conclusion, for a remembrance in the prayers of those who have been victims of such abuse, if it be possible, asking that God will keep us faithful to the path we have set, and the resolve to see to it that the Church is a safe place for our children. In the words of the Psalm we prayed today: ‘Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.”
Bishop Deeley encourages anyone who may have information about any case of sexual abuse of a minor by a church representative to contact civil authoritiesand Michael Magalski, Director of the Office of Professional Responsibility for the Diocese of Portland, at (207) 321-7836.
Submitted by Dave Guthro, Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland.