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Remove The Stains For Good

It’s not a big deal, but someone has to do it. Each week, I and a few other women in our Catholic parish volunteer to wash and iron the altar cloths and towels used at each Mass and other liturgical ceremonies.

These cotton or linen cloths have a cross embroidered on each. They must be folded and then ironed so that the cross is prominently seen. Displaying that cross depicts our faith in a small, outward manner.

Because these cloths are used when wine is distributed, the cloths often have wine stains that must be pre-treated and then washed. The lipstick stains on the cloths are more difficult to remove and most of us have found special laundry sprays that help take them out. We do our best. It’s a labor of love, a small act of faith.

This week, the Catholic Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, which encompasses the entire state of West Virginia, continues to iron out the stains upon its countenance left by the former bishop. The sins of his past have been known for some time. However, as details have been released about alleged sex abuse, misuse of the Catholic faithful’s donations and extravagant spending, Catholic followers in this state have wrestled with all of it.

It shows in the pews where attendance to Mass has lagged. It’s evident in the decrease in monetary support. The strain shows on the faces of parishioners and clergy alike.

Current Bishop Mark Brennan has followed the Pope’s order to develop a plan for the former bishop to make amends to the diocese, the people he reportedly abused and to apologize to all. It includes some loss of benefits and a request for repayment from the former bishop, among other things.

I am not holding my breath that the former bishop will even answer Bishop Brennan’s directives. To date, the former bishop continues to claim “they are out to get me.” I’m not sure who “they” are. Most Catholics I know just want to be rid of this stain that — if not removed soon — will continue to spread and become indelible. And that’s not fair to the people who have stayed the course in the eye of this horrendous storm.

There is no magic solution to wash this out of our lives. There is only the hope that some day, some way, it will never be repeated.

Heather Ziegler can be reached via email at hziegler@theintelligencer.net.

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