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Another Voice: Buffalo bishop must show true remorse to victims of abuse

Another Voice: Buffalo bishop must show true remorse to victims of abuse

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On Aug. 17, 2021, in a prepared statement regarding the healing process for the victims of clergy sexual abuse scandal, Buffalo Bishop Michael Fisher acknowledged that the church “must go to whatever length is required to demonstrate genuine remorse.”

The question unanswered by Fisher is what specific steps the Catholic church needs to take to demonstrate “genuine remorse.” Our bishop offered no options, ideas or solutions in his statement as to how he wants to demonstrate genuine remorse for the church’s role in this abuse.

As a daily Mass attendee, a Eucharistic minister and instructor of RCIA, I offer the following options to our bishop as steps that may show the victims of clergy sexual abuse that the church is capable of demonstrating genuine remorse. Also, as a lawyer, I have represented several of the priests in the sex abuse scandal.

Fisher needs to offer every church asset of the diocese – including its parishes – to the victims of clergy sexual abuse. A poor church is a healthy church. Christ multiplied the loaves of bread on a mountaintop, not in a fancy cathedral.

The bishop needs to publicly state that the use of the bankruptcy proceedings was a mistake and legal strategy used to protect church assets and deny victims of sex abuse full and complete compensation. I have not heard one media report where a victim said that they were “happy” with the use of bankruptcy process by the diocese.

Fisher needs to publicly atone for the harm caused by his office in protecting offender priests. Public atonement can begin by the bishop engaging in weekly ministry by serving meals in the poorest parts of the city of Buffalo, visiting the terminally ill and other acts of mercy. The bishop needs to publicly humble himself for the harm caused by his office.

The bishop needs to make all of the records of clergy abuse held by the diocese available to the victims as a gesture of transparency.

Jesus was quite clear that he intended the church to be one for the poor, the neglected and the needy. Jesus was born in a stable, never owned a home and died between two criminals. He was committed to the needs of the poor and marginalized. As a Catholic, I want a poor church, one that embraces the needs of the most vulnerable, broken and marginalized.

By adopting these suggestions and others, the Catholic Church can get back to practicing the teachings of Jesus, which are to bring “good tidings to the poor and set captives free.”

Michael S. Taheri is a Catholic parishioner and lawyer who has given pro bono representation to several priests in the Diocese of Buffalo.

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