Holy Spirit Deacon to Apologize for Homily

By Kaitlin Bell
The Monitor [McAllen TX]
February 22, 2007

The deacon from Holy Spirit Church plans to issue a public apology this weekend for comments he made Sunday about priests and the sexual abuse of children.

Additionally, the Diocese of Brownsville plans to take "some action" against Gerbermann, although spokeswoman Brenda Riojas would not disclose Thursday what that would be.

Some parishioners had complained that a homily Deacon Alvin Gerbermann gave during Sunday Mass blamed parents for not keeping their children away from predatory priests.

Their complaints were followed by a small protest held against the deacon during Ash Wednesday evening services.

Gerbermann, who is a "permanent deacon" and therefore not a member of the clergy, referred questions about his apology to Rev. Louis Brum, Holy Spirit's pastor.

"I have spoken through my pastor," Gerbermann said. On Monday, he had declined any type of comment.

Brum said the decision to give the apology came out of two discussions he had with Gerbermann. But he stressed he did not insist Gerbermann apologize.

Brum also said he believed some parishioners had misunderstood Gerbermann's message.

"I have met with the deacon and I understood he spoke from his heart," Brum said. "My understanding, being a priest, was that he was calling for our awareness to be responsible, that the responsibility comes both on the families, as it comes on the priests."

Riojas said Thursday evening she could not comment on the nature of the action the diocese was planning regarding Gerbermann, saying Bishop Raymundo Peņa wanted to inform the deacon himself before publicly disclosing his decision.

Harold Mosher, one of the Holy Spirit parishioners who originally spoke out against Gerbermann's remarks, said he was pleasantly surprised by news of Gerbermann's planned apology and possible action from the diocese, because the diocese usually tries to keep such matters quiet in hopes they will go away.

Holy Spirit previously attracted some controversy when it fired several unionized lay workers, who were later reinstated as part of a legal settlement.

"Believe me, for this diocese, it's a step forward. It really is," Mosher said. "And I'm glad something's being done."

He added, "We just felt so bad for the parents of the victims. The comments he made were just so insensitive."

Gerald Brazier, who heads the local chapter of the Church reform group Call to Action and participated in the group's protest Wednesday evening, said Thursday he was not yet prepared to comment on the decision for Gerbermann to apologize. Brazier did not hear the homily, but spoke out about its general themes Monday.

About 10 people had participated in the protest, in bumper-to-bumper Ash Wednesday traffic near Holy Sprit in North McAllen.

Several of the protestors called for the deacon's firing or resignation.

"The homily is a time for teaching the word of the church," said Bridget Cook, a Holy Spirit parishioner and member of Call to Action. "And to speak those words is harmful to those who were in the audience who may have been abused."

The protestors stood on the corner of 23rd Street and Martin Avenue — public property just beyond church grounds. Some held signs saying "Deacon must resign," while others used the occasion to call on the diocese to release the names of priests accused of abuse.

Most passersby didn't register a reaction, although some did honk their horns in approval.

Monitor staff writer Michael Barnett contributed to this report.

Kaitlin Bell covers Mission, western Hidalgo County and general assignments for The Monitor. You can reach her at (956) 683-4446.


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