Pittsburgh Bishop Zubik begs forgiveness for church as Holy Week begins

| Monday, March 21, 2016, 11:30 p.m.

Pittsburgh Bishop David Zubik stood Monday night at the pulpit inside St. Paul Cathedral in Oakland and begged for forgiveness of the sins of the Roman Catholic Church.

Lee Cabot sat in the front row to absorb the words he had waited to hear for most of his life. In the 1970s, a Bellevue priest wrongly interpreted church rules and punished his late mother after her husband abandoned the family, he said.

“Because of what he did, our whole family fell apart,” said Cabot, 47, of Oakland.

Cabot clutched a framed photograph of his mother, Marianne Liptak, who died in 2002.

“My mother never returned to the altar until the day she died,” Cabot said. “She died thinking she was a disgraced Catholic.”

Zubik hosted a special “Prayer Service for Apology” as part of the Jubilee Year of Mercy called upon by Pope Francis.

At the beginning of Holy Week, Zubik said it is a fitting time for the church in Pittsburgh to apologize for any harms it has caused.

Notably, he mentioned abuse — physical, emotional and sexual. He said other people might have been harmed by words or actions of the church.

“It's pretty clear that I don't know the specific reasons each and every one of you is here,” the bishop said. “I wouldn't even want to imagine how difficult it was for some of you to come here. ... how difficult it was to enter the church.”

Zubik thanked the about 100 people who attended the service for exhibiting courage in coming. He relayed the story of how Peter betrayed Jesus three times.

“You are angry, and you may be resentful because, like Jesus, you know the pain of that hurt,” Zubik said.

Zubik did not mention any specific cases of abuse, including recently publicized allegations against priests in the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese. Attorney General Kathleen Kane on March 1 released a grand jury report detailing four decades of abuse in that diocese.

Zubik conducted the first apology service in the Pittsburgh diocese in 2009. He first hosted such a service in 2006 while serving as bishop in Green Bay, Wis.

People attending Monday's service read seven prayers and lit seven candles.

The first prayer was part of an apology to children, youth and adults “victimized by trusted clergy.”

All U.S. dioceses in 2002 adopted zero-tolerance policies for dealing with suspected sexual abuse, though the Greensburg Diocese's policy dates to 1985 and Pittsburgh's to 1988.

Apologies were offered to families of those victimized, to good clergymen hurt by actions of bad ones and to employees of the Catholic church who have been treated unjustly or without respect.

An apology from the church can help start the healing process, Zubik said.

“How good of us to take the first step to be healed,” Zubik said to end his homily.

A tearful Cabot said he did not know about the apology service seven years ago. He said he is the last practicing Catholic among his family's three children because of the way a priest treated his mother.

“I am the only one who has stuck by,” Cabot said. “For 44 years, I've waited for this.”

Jason Cato is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7936 or jcato@tribweb.com.

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