Funeral Mass held for outspoken victim of clergy sex abuse
By Peter Smith
July 07, 2016
|Brian Gergely holds up an old photograph of himself during a news conference in 2003.|
EBENSBURG, Pa. — The ancient Scriptural texts took on poignant meaning as they were read aloud Wednesday morning at the funeral Mass of Brian Gergely, a longtime advocate for victims of clergy sexual abuse who took his own life Friday.
“The souls of the just are in the hands of God, and no torment shall touch them,” Mr. Gergely’s brother, Mark, recited from the Book of Wisdom. “... They are at peace.”
In his funeral homily, the Rev. David Lockard paid tribute to Mr. Gergely, who worked with those with mental illness and disabilities, as a counselor and as an advocate for fellow abuse survivors.
“Certainly Brian was a just man,” said Father Lockard. “He is now in the hands of God.”
Mr. Gergely, 46, who was from this Cambria County seat, was memorialized at Holy Name Catholic Parish, in the same church where decades earlier he and many other altar boys were sexually assaulted by the late Monsignor Francis McCaa.
A March 1 state grand jury report on sexual abuse and cover-up in the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown described Monsignor McCaa as a “monster” who eluded prosecution until his death in 2007.
More than a decade ago, Mr. Gergely became a public face of abuse survivors when he spoke publicly under his own name of his ordeal. He sued, and later settled, with the diocese over his abuse by Monsignor McCaa.
Mr. Gergely had recently finished a memoir on healing from abuse. He often spoke to media on behalf of abuse survivors, particularly when the topic was in the news, such as after the release of this year’s grand jury report as well as after the Jerry Sandusky abuse scandal at Penn State University roiled the region.
His suicide came days after the Pennsylvania Senate removed a provision from a bill that would have removed the statute of limitations to allow victims to sue over abuse. Advocates said victims often take years or decades to come to terms with what happened to them as children, but the Catholic Church heavily lobbied against the measure, saying it could bankrupt dioceses.
The Mass, as is typical of Catholic funerals, did not include lengthy eulogies, nor any reflections on the circumstances of his death, but focused on a liturgy of celebrating resurrection. His coffin, draped with a white cloth inscribed with Jesus’ words, “I am the Resurrection and the Life,” was brought in at the beginning of the service and placed before an Easter candle, symbol of new life. At the end, the coffin was brought out, following an altar server bearing a crucifix, to the words of the modern Catholic hymn “Be Not Afraid.”
Father Lockard urged the more than 100 mourners present to take comfort in the words of the 23rd Psalm, which also was read and which depicts God as a shepherd caring for a vulnerable flock.
“Help the Good Shepherd,” Father Lockard implored the mourners, to “shepherd the Gergely family” and console them in the future beyond the funeral.
A statement issued late Tuesday by the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown said: “We are deeply saddened by the passing of Brian Gergely. May the Lord grant him eternal rest, and may He provide comfort to Mr. Gergely’s family and friends. Support is always available to survivors of sexual abuse. We urge anyone who was abused to notify authorities and to seek help through a state or county victim assistance agency.”