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Bishop Burbidge celebrates Mass for all victims of sexual abuse

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"The sadness we are experiencing leads us to acknowledge that our church must undergo what is necessary to experience ongoing transformation and purification." Bishop Michael F. Burbidge

Bishop Michael F. Burbidge celebrated a Mass for victims of sexual abuse at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington Aug. 26. More than 220 faithful joined him in prayer for the continued healing of victims. Father Thomas P. Ferguson, Father Michael C. Isenberg, Father Christopher R. Christiansen and Father Richard E. Dyer concelebrated the Mass. 

During his homily, Bishop Burbidge acknowledged that words are never adequate to convey the deepest apologies and profound sorrow to any victim who have experienced sexual abuse on the part of the clergy.

“The Diocese of Arlington stands ready to assist you in the healing process and to be steadfast in doing everything possible to prevent such horrific acts from occurring again within our Church,” said Bishop Burbidge. “To any victim who sadly may ever have been met with disregard from the church in the past, be assured, that will not be the case in our diocese. If you are able please come forward and know that I stand ready to assist you.”

“The sadness we are experiencing leads us to acknowledge that our church must undergo what is necessary to experience ongoing transformation and purification. While necessary, policies and procedures are never enough. Our crisis was caused by individuals committing evil acts and by leaders failing to protect the flock from them. Evil must be rooted out and it can be, because God’s love and mercy are stronger.”

Christ the Redeemer parishioners Gregory and Charlotte DeCuir came from Sterling to attend the Mass. They had been traveling in Pittsburgh on the Feast of the Assumption when the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report was announced Aug 15. 

“I thought the bishop’s comments were right on time. He has started to address what I think a lot of the other bishops need to do, which is the evil that exists.” said Gregary DeCuir. “Men did this. It’s not policy and procedure. I hope to hear from more bishops specifically addressing that fact that it is people that created this mess and hopeful the bishops will come cleaning it up through the church.”

A line of people waited after Mass was over to speak with Bishop Burbidge. One of those people was Madeline Gonzales who was a victim of sexual abuse as both a child and an adult. “This is something that follows you throughout your life,” said Gonzalas, a parishioner of St. Francis de Sales Church in Purcellville. “I appreciate all that Bishop Burbidge does to always meet the needs of all his followers. I came here specifically because it was a mass for healing for victims of sexual abuse and it is not only in the church it is out there.” She was greatly impacted by Bishop’s words describing how God never leaves victims. 

“I remember as a child always understanding that no matter what I was going through God was always there with me and the Blessed mother was always my comfort,” said Gonzalas. “But then as you grow up you walk away, you leave and because life gets complicated and you don’t resolve those feelings but as you get older you realize that God was always there and He carried you through so much and it is important that you stay closer to him and you resolve those feelings so that you can eventually go on and live the life that God really wanted you to live.” 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018