In Letter to Faithful, Bishop Addresses Abuse Crisis

Times Union
August 26, 2019

Bishop Edward Scharfenberger speaks to the press during a groundbreaking ceremony for the Mary Immaculate, Patroness of America Mausoleum at the at the Most Holy Redeemer Cemetery on Thursday, June 18, 2015 in Niskayuna, N.Y. (Lori Van Buren / Times Union)

In a letter issued over the weekend, Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger said he shared the public's "sorrow and anger" in the wake of the new wave of sexual abuse claims filed against priests and others earlier this month.

"Our beautiful Catholic faith, which gives comfort through hardships and adds joy during life's great moments, can feel shaken," wrote Scharfenberger, who took over leadership of the Albany diocese in 2014. "And, sadly, among you there are many who have suffered other types of abuse or trauma privately but now feel acutely painful memories reawakening when reading the news. My heart goes out to you."

The new civil complaints, made possible by a one-year "look-back window" in the recently enacted Child Victims Act that temporarily lifted the statute of limitations for such claims, included one action alleging that former Albany Bishop Howard Hubbard had sexually abused a teenager in the 1990s an allegation Hubbard denies.

Scharfenberger's letter did not mention Hubbard or any of the roughly two dozen Catholic figures in the region living or dead, previously accused or not who stand accused in the new civil actions.

"In these times we are also reminded of sins and crimes already proven to have been committed by spiritual fathers against their children," the bishop wrote.

Scharfenberger expressed hope that faith could be a balm amid the scandal engulfing the church and other formerly trusted institutions.

"Remember ... how Jesus was 'living peace' for his apprehensive disciples in the midst of stormy seas. ... (W)e have no reason to fear truth no matter how painful it may be," he wrote. "Life's sorrows and tumult teach us that it can be hard to lean into Jesus when we are in pain. Yet, precisely because of our faith, we understand all too well that all men and women have the capacity for evil and sin. It is the fallen humanity within our divinely instituted Church.

He also called on his readers to avoid a rush to judgment against either the accusers or the accused.

"Remember the counsel of St. Paul where sin increases, grace abounds all the more. Graces abound for the survivors and their loved ones, and for the parishes where they should always be welcome. Graces abound, as well, for the accused, for whom our system of justice affords a presumption of innocence until proven otherwise," the bishop wrote.

The diocese said in a Monday release that the letter was sent out "via parishes, social media and the diocesan website" to "encourage and strengthen" members of the faith community.








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