Jan. 29-Feb. 4, 2004
Reconciliation and Healing
By Eileen Jevis/ SUN staff writer
Bishop Offers Healing and Prayer Services
On Friday, Jan. 16, Bishop James Moynihan offered the second of four healing and prayer services at Holy Family Church in Fairmount. The service, which was an evening of reconciliation for Catholics who have been affected by the sexual abuse scandal, was solemn and reverent. Temperatures well below zero and heavy snowfall may explain the sparse attendance. In his homily, Bishop Moynihan referred to the message of St. Paul and asked for forgiveness on behalf of his priest brothers who have sinned. “St. Paul tells us that we are all members of the Mystical Body of Christ, and that when one member of the body suffers, everyone suffers. When one of our priests or bishops sins, all of us suffer as a result.” As Charles Bailey of Lysander listened to the bishop’s message, he was moved to tears. A diocesan priest had sexually abused Bailey in the 1960s.
Bishop Moynihan said that there was no doubt in his mind of the harm that has been done to victims by priests and bishops who have abused their trust and brought disgrace upon themselves. “I am here this evening to repent in the name of the former for the sins that have been committed against God and against you,” he said. Edward Weiss, a parishioner at Holy Family for more than 33 years, attended the service to hear what the bishop had to say and to show support. “I thought he got his points across very well,” said Weiss. “But I think he’s putting more blame on himself than he needs to. He’s assumed too much of the guilt on himself.” In an attempt to diffuse feelings of hurt and anger, Bishop Moynihan referred to a quote by Mohatma Gandhi, “An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.” Despite the bishop’s message, Bailey pleaded with him to release the names of the 49 priests that were accused of abuse. A private conversation between Bailey and Bishop Moynihan took place after the service. “He won’t release the names because of the eighth commandment,” said Bailey. The commandment, “thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor,” says that each man is accountable for himself and will have to stand solely alone on the merits he earned walking the human role.
Bailey, who has not stepped into a church in many years, said that the service had not helped in his healing process. “If there is any forgiveness, it will be done by God, not me,” he said. Other healing prayer services took place at St. Mary’s of the Assumption Church in Oswego on Oct. 30, St. Patrick’s Parish in Binghamton on Jan. 20 and St. John’s Parish in New Hartford on Jan. 21. The bishop felt that the services went well. “There were about 400 people who attended the four services,” said Bishop Moynihan. “I think they were very helpful and effective. I believe that everyone leaving the service in Oswego felt restored and renewed. They all thanked me for coming.” The bishop said he spent over 40 minutes saying goodbye to those who attended the healing service at St. Mary’s of the Assumption in Oswego. Many, he said, stayed after the service and greeted him during the refreshment hour. “I had the opportunity to talk to a number of the victims as well as the parents and friends of the victims,” said Bishop Moynihan. “It was very restorative. I am glad I was there for the victims.” While only a few attended the healing service at Holy Family in Fairmount, Bishop Moynihan said that even if one victim was present, he was willing to be there. “As I told the people in Oswego, I’ll be the last person out of here. Father Stephenson told me where the light switch was and rest assured, I’ll be the last person to leave.”
Bishop Moynihan said he has also spoken to other sex abuse victims who were not abused by priests. “They told me that it was good to be part of the healing process. One victim, who had been abused by a priest, said that he was willing to forgive the priest but wasn’t willing to forgive the diocese,” said Bishop Moynihan. “He said that my coming there had helped him with that.”