AMHERST, N.Y. (WIVB) – Priests in the Diocese of Buffalo were invited to a meeting with Bishop Edward Scharfenberger on Monday. The meeting took place at St. Leo the Great on Sweet Home Rd. in Amherst.
Scharfenberger, the diocese’s temporary apostolic administrator, is currently mulling whether the diocese should declare for bankruptcy. The meeting included a discussion about what reorganization would look like if the diocese were to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, according to a person who attended the meeting and spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak with the media.
Just days after taking over diocesan leadership on December 4th, Scharfenberger said bankruptcy was likely, but that he wanted to consider all options first. The diocese is a defendant in hundreds of lawsuits related to sexual abuse.
The priests were met by a small group of protesters outside the church, including Siobhan O’Connor. O’Connor was the secretary to former Bishop Richard Malone who leaked classified material, helping to spark the scandal. She said the uncertainty of if and when the diocese will file for bankruptcy has taken a toll on victims of abuse.
“It continues to put this issue in their mind, sometimes every day,” O’Connor said. “When the Boy Scouts filed for bankruptcy last week, I got a lot of calls from survivors saying, ‘Is that going to happen now for the Diocese of Buffalo?’ It has seemed imminent for so long now that it puts the specter over them. They keep wondering when are they going to do it. Until they make that decision, it leaves them wondering and causes a lot of anxiety.”
Bishop Scharfenberger released a statement on the meeting:
“Concern has been expressed over my decision to allow priests who have been placed on administrative leave or who do not have faculties to celebrate the sacraments publicly to participate in Mass with me and other priests of the Diocese yesterday. This was a private Mass – not open to the public – which had as its emphasis the need for true personal remorse and penance for the harm caused to victim-survivors. I deeply regret that this decision to gather privately in prayer and penance opened the door to yet another wound for those harmed.
As a family we want to find ways to overcome what fractures us. Sometimes those efforts fall short or fail miserably. We will continue to try even as we learn from our failures and reach out to those wounded and re-wounded.
I want to emphasize that in no way should the participation of certain priests be seen as a restoration of their faculties to celebrate the sacraments publicly, or certainly not in any way to disregard the grave emotional, physical and spiritual harm inflicted on innocent persons. The well-being and healing of those who have experienced such trauma was and continues to be our constant preoccupation. Here at the start of this season of Lent, I call on all our priests – those in good standing and those not – to reflect on the actions that have damaged souls and severed relationships with God and our Church, to pray intently for the healing of those harmed and to beg forgiveness from the Lord who calls us to repentance and who alone binds our wounds and restores our hope.”Bishop Edward Scharfenberger