Catholic Bishop to Deliver Special Mass for Abuse Victims

Associated Press, carried in Arizona Daily Star
March 23, 2009

PHOENIX — A special victims Mass is scheduled this week by the Phoenix Catholic Diocese to help heal and reconcile past actions against church members.

The Mass, scheduled for Wednesday evening at Gilbert's St. Anne Roman Catholic Parish, will be officiated by Bishop Thomas Olmsted.

During the Mass, the bishop will apologize to victims and pray for their healing, church officials said.

"(Victims) feel validated that their church would hold this type of Mass and that the bishop is the only one who holds this Mass," said Jean SoKol, director of the diocese's Office of Child and Youth Protection. "It's very healing for them."

Olmsted declined an interview but said in a prepared statement that "it is important to extend the healing ministry of the Church to people who have been abused in their lives."

Some groups, like the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, are critical of the healing Masses.

Network national director David Clohessy of St. Louis said he would prefer the church take tangible rather than symbolic steps to prevent future abuse. The healing masses may temporarily help some victims, Clohessy said, but church officials should be more proactive in preventing future abuse by taking measures such as posting sexual offenders on Catholic Web sites and in bulletins and newspapers.

The survivors network represents 8,000 members nationwide.

The diocese said it picked the Gilbert church because it was recently the victim of a man who stole $100,000 from members after he promised he could help them secure legal immigration status in six months.

The man, who was never identified, fled town and remains a fugitive.

The Rev. Greg Schlarb, who will assist the bishop at the Wednesday mass, said the 65-year-old congregation has recovered from the theft.


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