Va. Catholics gather in prayer, share thoughts on abuse allegations after Mass of Atonement

By Sierra Fox
Channel 8 (ABC affiliate)
September 14, 2018

[with video]

The bishop of Richmond's Catholic Diocese held a "Mass of Atonement" on Friday at the Catholic Church of Sacred Heart to pray for victims of sex abuse. 

In the most recent church sex scandal in Pennsylvania, decades of abuse and cover-ups were uncovered. 

Catholics from across Virginia gathered in Richmond for an opportunity to pray for victims of abuse and to pray for church leaders seeking forgiveness for their sins and failures.

8News spoke with Catholics who attended the church for the "Mass of Atonement." 

"Just kind of a disappointment in my heart," said Patrick Britti. 

Catholics who came to Richmond for a "Mass of Atonement"  were united by pain and brought together by hope. 

Mary Jane Fuller, Director of Human Resources and Safe Environment, spoke about the anger after the latest scandal.

"We're angry and we want to make sure these types of things don't happen," said Fuller. 

This is after a grand jury investigation unveiled accusations that more than 1,000 children had been abused by 300 predator priests over the past 70 years. 

"The church has been going through a difficult time," Fuller said. 

"It wasn't really a shock because it has been going on for years, unfortunately," said Ana Pacas, a Catholic who traveled from Chesapeake to attend the "Mass of Atonement." 

Pacas said she is a victim of abuse herself, not in the Catholic Church, but says it's sickening the church continues to go through this.

"There are no words to describe my, I guess, disappointment with the bishops," Pacas said. 

In an open letter to the community, Bishop Barry Knestout says he is committed to addressing accusations of abuse quickly and transparently.

"This is one of the most important things Bishop Knestout has on his mind every day to make sure our children are being protected," Fuller said. 

Bishop Barry Knestout says he plans to take a close look at clergy personnel files to hold everyone accountable, make names of priests alleged of abuse public and is committed to a fund to help abuse victims with counseling.

All this to help with what survivors want the most, making sure what happened to them doesn't happen to anyone else. Read more about Bishop Knestout's plans here

Some still don't think enough has been done.

"For all we know there might be things hidden and in Richmond," said Britti. "I hope nothing breaks, but there might be some scandals that we just don't know about yet."

When 8News asked if there are sexual abuse investigations going on in Richmond, Fuller declined to answer, calling it a personnel matter.



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