Victims of priest sex abuse call planned service a 'distraction'

Continuing his effort to repair relations with parishioners peeved about the ongoing clergy sex-abuse scandal, Archbishop Cardinal Justin Rigali announced the Archdiocese will host a "penitential service" March 11 where the faithful can "pray for the forgiveness of all sins and for reconciliation with God and in the community."

Continuing their effort to hold the Archdiocese accountable, a group of clergy-abuse victims are criticizing the service as a "meaningless gesture" and "dangerous distraction" from real reform.

"Gestures like this, we believe, are at least in part designed to convey the impression that this crisis is over and all that remains is expressing regret and making amends with wounded adults," said David Clohessy, executive director of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. "Nothing could be further from the truth. As the grand jury report makes clear, predator priests are still on the job today in Philadelphia. Naming and ousting them must come first."

Rigali, in a Feb. 28 letter to parishioners, wrote that he intends to meet with priests this week to pray with them and thank them for their work. He wrote: "With repentance for our sins we humbly ask the forgiveness of God, which comes to us through Christ. We also humbly ask the forgiveness of all those whom we have offended in any way. We likewise beg God to bring about reconciliation and healing in our community."

The March 11 Mass is scheduled for 7 p.m. at  the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Center City.

A grand jury last month indicted two priests, a former priest and a lay teacher on rape charges and a monsignor, who was accused of shuffling pedophile priests into unsuspecting parishes, with endangering the welfare of children. The grand jury report noted that they found evidence suggesting former Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua knew and approved of the cover-up. But Bevilacqua dodged charges because there was not enough evidence to ensure a successful prosecution, grand jurors said.

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