Bishop and Pastor Offer Mass for Victims

The Associated Press, carried in Telegram & Gazette [East Longmeadow MA]
September 13, 2004

EAST LONGMEADOW, Mass.- The head of the Catholic church in western Massachusetts and a priest who has been the leading critic of the diocese's handling of the clergy sex abuse scandal celebrated Mass together in honor of the victims.

But lingering resentments were clear Sunday at St. Michael's parish, which had withheld a portion of its collections from the diocese for two years to protest the church's continued financial support for a priest convicted of child abuse.

Bishop Timothy McDonnell, who was making his first visit to the suburban parish for Sunday's Mass, publicly apologized to the Rev. James Scahill, St. Michael's pastor, for his angry criticism.

During a heated exchange in May that ended with the bishop dismissing Scahill from a diocesan advisory council, McDonnell had suggested the priest's strident criticism of diocesan officials had done as much damage to the church's reputation as the actions of convicted pedophile priest Richard Lavigne.

The bishop also apologized on behalf of the church to the victims of child abuse.

"For those of you here today, who by the action of evil in the church, have been made to feel hurt, isolated and abandoned ... for those of you who have been made to feel victimized, I am sorry," he said.

However, following the bishop's sermon centering on the parable of the Prodigal Son, Scahill told the packed church that real healing cannot begin until the church acknowledges its own errors.

"There are terrible, cruel and destructive things that come our way that are not in our control," Scahill said. "What is in our control is how we react to them."


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