Bishop Zubik announces 'year of repentance' in response to child sex abuse allegations
Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh clergy will undergo periodic fasting and prayer for a year “in light of the scandal of child sexual abuse,” Bishop David Zubik announced Tuesday.
The announcement comes a month after a grand jury detailed decades of allegations of sexual abuse and cover-up by clergy in six of the church’s dioceses in Pennsylvania. The report included allegations against 99 Pittsburgh priests.
Zubik has said the church didn’t cover up the abuse and that the church has instituted internal reforms to address abuse by clergy.
“Faced with the sinful actions of the members of our own ranks of the clergy, who are called to manifest the example of Christ, we feel both shame and sorrow, and are reminded of our own sinfulness and the need for mercy,” Zubik wrote in a letter to clergy, according to the announcement.
His announcement invited all Catholics to join in a “year of repentance,” which will include four three-day fasting periods over the year in which clergy will abstain from meat and dedicate a special hour of prayer each day.
Zubik will inaugurate the year Sunday, Sept. 23, and will lead a related prayer that afternoon.
“Apologies, condemnations, penance fail to protect or support victims, they are merely words and gestures,” Tim Lennon, president of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, said in an emailed response to the announcement. The group has repeatedly called for Zubik to step down.
The grand jury report recommends four changes to state law to address the abuse, including a “window of opportunity” proposal that would temporarily allow people older than 30 to file civil lawsuits over sexual abuse that occurred when they were younger than 18. Pennsylvania’s statute of limitations prohibits childhood civil abuse claims after 30 and criminal claims after 50.
The Catholic Conference, which lobbies for the church, has opposed the change, as has the Insurance Federation of Pennsylvania. Senate Republicans have said the provision would be unconstitutional. Shapiro has defended its constitutionality.
Wes Venteicher is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Wes at 412-380-5676, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @wesventeicher.