Special Mass of Reparation Held at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland on March 11

PORTLAND---“We come in this very first week of Lent, the Church’s season for repentance and reconciliation, to be mindful of the terrible harm that has been done by the sexual abuse of minors by clerics in the Church.”

Offering prayers for the healing of victim/survivors of sexual abuse while reaffirming the Diocese of Portland’s continuing pledge to provide a safe environment for all, Bishop Robert Deeley presided at a solemn Mass of Reparation at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland on Friday afternoon, March 11.

“The harm that has been done is a misuse, an abuse of the beauty of creation that God has made for our good,” Bishop Deeley said during his homily on Friday. “When harm is done to one of these children, God’s creation is marred. The beauty and integrity of this human person has been misused, abused. We should not easily forget that. It should give us resolve to do all that we can to prevent such abuse to occur, and to heal the wounds of those who have been harmed.”

The Mass was concelebrated by Monsignor Marc Caron, Monsignor Paul Stefanko, Father Seamus Griesbach, and Father Kevin Upham.

Bishop Deeley told victim/survivors that the diocese wants them to feel free to come forward whenever they are ready to confront the pain caused by abuse.

“We will work to receive you in a manner that protects your dignity. We want to do what we can to assist, if at all possible, in a process which leads to healing, but we are not the only place to which you can bring your story. To assist in healing, we also encourage any victim of sexual abuse to bring that crime to the attention of those civil authorities who are charged with the administration of justice. Our prayers and our sorrow are also extended to the families of these victim/survivors. Your trust was also betrayed terribly. You, too, were harmed by these instances of abuse.”  

Special prayers were offered for victims/survivors of abuse that they may find hope and wholeness in the Lord's healing gift of peace; for clergy, parents, mentors, teachers, coaches, and all who work with young people that they may serve with a spirit of respect for others; for families that they may create a safe and loving environment for their children; and for counselors, therapists, advocates, and all those who provide help for survivors of abuse that they may serve others with wisdom and compassion.

“We do not want to forget,” the bishop told those gathered in the Cathedral as well as those participating via livestream. “Remembering keeps us vigilant in our effort to reform.” 

Over the last two decades, the Diocese of Portland has committed to raising awareness of the harm of sexual abuse, promoting the ways in which it can be prevented, and protecting young people as they come to learn of God and his love for them.

The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People was approved by the U.S. Catholic Bishops in June 2002 and revised in both June 2011 and June 2018. The mandates include permanently removing clergy who have sexually abused minors; reaching out to victims and their families with compassion; reporting allegations of sexual abuse of minors to civil authorities; investigating complaints of abuse in a thorough manner; implementing safe environment programs, which include abuse prevention training and awareness for all personnel and volunteers; and completing background checks on all personnel.

Earlier this week, it was announced that an independent audit of safe environment procedures found the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, which includes all 141 churches in Maine, in full compliance with the Charter. Since 2002, over 16,000 Catholic Church employees, volunteers, priests, and educators in Maine who work with children have been trained in a safe environment program.

“The emotion of anger, like all human emotions, has a place in our lives. There has been much anger unleashed in the wake of the sex abuse crisis that we gather today to remember. That anger has led to some very good things,” said the bishop. “It has brought about change in the way that allegations of sexual abuse are handled. It has initiated tremendous work in prevention of such abuse and in the protection of children. It has motivated ongoing change. Most recently, it brought into being the standards and procedures by which bishops and those in authority who have neglected to deal directly with allegations of sexual abuse on the part of clerics or any Church ministers are held accountable. Our response to this sad, harmful, and painful abuse continues to advance. And, with the guidance of the Spirit of God, it will continue.”

The aim of all these measures is to protect the young and make the Church a safe place for all.

“We cannot change the past,” said Bishop Deeley, “but we can do everything possible to see that history does not repeat itself. We can channel anger into positive change.”

As always, Bishop Deeley encourages anyone who may have information about any case of sexual abuse of a minor by a Church representative to contact civil authorities and Michael Magalski, director of the Office of Professional Responsibility for the Diocese of Portland, at 207-321-7836 or at [email protected].

“May our Loving Father, who has created each of us and who cares for us as his children, continue to send his Spirit over us to guide our resolve to do penance,” prayed the bishop, “and to restore trust through the vigilance we bring to the care and safety of all in our Church.”