Queen of Peace Holds Mass in Penance for Sins of Clergy Abuse
By Sean Sauro
September 25, 2018
|Clergy members process at the beginning of the Solemn High Mass held as penance on Monday at Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Patton. More than 100 people attended the service of atonement for the sins of clergy sexual abuse. Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec|
A few dozen people kneeled in the dimly lit pews shortly after 6 p.m. Monday inside Queen of Peace Church, their hands clasped in prayer.
In the hour that followed, others would enter, and by 7 p.m., the church was filled with more than a hundred visitors and parishioners.
They were gathered for a Solemn High Mass held as penance for the sexual abuse of children at the hands of Catholic priests.
The Mass was held on the same day that victims of sexual abuse and their supporters marched on the Pennsylvania Capitol.
The rally, led by state Attorney General Josh Shapiro, preceded a speech by Gov. Tom Wolf, urging lawmakers to support legislation to better protect victims of sexual abuse, violence and harassment.
But before Wolf took to a podium, attendees in Harrisburg heard from Cambria County native Shaun Dougherty, who was abused by a priest as a child. His words were streamed by video to a state-owned website.
“I’m from Johnstown, Pa. We were ravaged by this,” he said, also referencing recent accusations that a local doctor, Johnnie “Jack” Barto, used his position to molest children.
Dougherty talked in graphic detail about how he was abused by a priest as a child and about how those memories came back when, as an adult, he was given a routine rectal exam by a doctor.
“I was physically shaken,” Dougherty said, telling those watching that he later found a loud room where he knew his voice would be masked as he screamed out in rage.
Then on Monday he addressed the state’s legislators, offering a stern ultimatum.
“You are either going to stand with us, or you are going to show the world that you are standing with pedophiles,” said Dougherty, who has been a longtime and outspoken advocate for the abused.
It was only moments after Dougherty spoke that the Rev. Ananias Buccione addressed churchgoers in Patton.
“Let us be ready to atone for sin,” Buccione said.
The “sin” Buccione referred to was outlined in grand jury reports.
In 2011, a report on abuse in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia was released.
In 2016, it was announced that hundreds of children in the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese had allegedly been abused by at least 50 priests or religious leaders during a 40-year period.
Last month, a report outlined the abuse by hundreds of priests in six other dioceses across Pennsylvania, who are accused of molesting more than 1,000 children since the 1950s.
The reports also detail a decadeslong cover-up by church leaders.
For the sins of the abusive priests and their enablers, those gathered in Patton were asked to atone.
Shortly after the Mass’ beginning, churchgoers stood from their pews, carrying lit candles as they paced in circles around the building’s outer aisles. Some also carried Rosary beads wrapped around their hands.
They were led by a group of young altar servers who carried candles in ornate holders. They were followed by a group of clergy members.
The mass was spoken entirely in Latin, with the exception of a homily, which Buccione gave in English.
In the homily, he talked about the church as the metaphorical bride of God.
“She remains undefiled, though beaten and battered and abused,” he said.
That abuse was perpetrated by the clergymen who molested children and the others who covered it up, Buccione said. And he called on those gathered in the church to pray for those priests’ sins, as well as their own sins.
“Penance and reparations are owed to God … because we have sinned collectively day in and day out,” Buccione said. “We are all sinners to a greater or lesser degree.”
In the wake of reports about abusive priests, it is likely that the church will receive much criticism, he said, but he then called on those in attendance to remain steadfast in their support of and belief in Catholicism.
The religion, he said, “will suffer much,” and the church may “die.”
“But I say, so be it,” Buccione said. “In truth, our God knows His way out of the grave.”
Mirror Staff Writer Sean Sauro is at 946-7535.