Faithful Urged To Remain Vigilant

Church-goers within the Roman Catholic Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston are still reeling from the revelation that 18 of their priests have had credible accusations of sexual abuse against them in the Northern Panhandle.

It also was revealed that 13 additional diocesan priests had been accused in other states.

Since the Diocese released the list of abusers last week, current clergy have struggled with the news and how to bring a new sense of faith to their congregations.

Some pastors have chosen not to address the sex scandal from the pulpit during Mass on Saturday evening and today.

Others have weaved today’s Gospel readings into their comments about the abuse.

At St. Michael Catholic Church in Wheeling, during the Saturday evening Mass, Monsignor Joseph Peterson said it is a time of turmoil and tribulation in the world as well as in the Catholic Church.

One of the largest parishes in the diocese, St. Michael parishioners filled the pews for the evening Mass.

The pastor said he was attending a meeting of the Wheeling Vicariate at St. John Church in Benwood this week when the list of priests accused of sexual abuse was revealed. The Wheeling Vicariate is made up of 18 parishes and two missions.

“There were many people there who shared their pain, anger and turmoil. We never would have expected this to happen. You read about this … it’s deeply troubling and hurtful. Names on the list completely surprised me. There were priests I knew and had no idea,” Peterson said.

The pastor said all in attendance at the meeting said they would “remain faithful — not faith in a person — but in Jesus Christ.”

Peterson said the Catholic Church in West Virginia is taking whatever steps necessary to assure the sins of the past are not repeated. He said he is deeply and personally distressed over the suffering inflicted on the victims by clergy.

“For some this can shake their faith, but our faith should be in Jesus Christ and the Gospel he proclaims,” Peterson said.

As today’s Gospel reading speaks of Christ coming again in glory, Peterson urged parishioners to trust in their faith.

“We are all called be vigilant and faithful,”he said.

At the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Wheeling, there was no mention of the diocese’s release of names at its 6 p.m. Mass Saturday. Monsignor Kevin Quirk, rector of the Cathedral, said nothing of the 31 clergy in the diocese accused of sexually abusing minors in his evening sermon.

Three priests on the list of clergy accused while serving in the diocese were assigned to the Cathedral of St. Joseph for short periods of time during the 1950s through the 1970s.

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