Seated in front of the altar at Saint Paul Cathedral in Pittsburgh’s Oakland neighborhood, Bishop David A. Zubik of the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh listened as members of the city’s Catholic community — some of them survivors of sexual abuse at the hands of clergy — shared criticism, reflections and questions following the Pennsylvania grand jury report on sexual abuse released in August.
Thursday’s session is the first of four to be held by the Diocese of Pittsburgh; the others are next week.
“All that I have heard tonight has been your sharing reflections with me,” Zubik said as he addressed attendees at the close of the session. “And so I need to thank you for your courage.”
He extended is apologies to victims and members of the Catholic community.
“I really am very sorry,” Zubik said. “Not empty words. I’m sorry that you suffered because of the church.”
After opening prayers and readings, at least 19 attendees addressed Zubik for about 90 minutes.
Those who didn’t get to speak before the program moved to closing prayers just before 9 p.m. were asked to write their comments down on cards that were collected by the session’s lay facilitators.
Ellen Mady, a diocese staff member, moderated the session. She’ll serve as moderator for upcoming sessions as well.
In addition to sharing personal stories of abuse, many of the speakers called for increased transparency as the diocese moves forward with addressing claims of abuse.
This includes more openness about how parishioners’ donations are being spent.
Several speakers urged Zubik to resign.
Speaking with reporters after the event, Zubik did not respond to calls for his resignation.
He also would not address any examples of abuse discussed during the session, except to say that an action plan outlining how the church will move forward will be released after all four sessions are complete.
That action plan will be released to the public and will be complete before Ash Wednesday, which falls on March 6, Zubik said.
The Diocese of Pittsburgh includes Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, Greene, Lawrence and Washington counties. There are 12 municipalities in the Alle-Kiski Valley served by the Diocese of Pittsburgh, with a combined population of about 52,000.
The roughly 900-page report detailed sexual abuse allegations in six Catholic dioceses around Pennsylvania, including those based in Greensburg and Pittsburgh.
The grand jury report identified 301 “predator priests” who are accused of molesting at least 1,000 victims over a 70-year period.
Of those, 20 priests worked throughout the Greensburg diocese and 99 worked throughout the Pittsburgh diocese. A string of listening sessions hosted by the Diocese of Greensburg also wrapped up in Indiana County on Thursday.
The report also detailed evidence that administrators — including bishops — permitted priests accused of sexual abuse to continue working and failed to properly investigate child abuse claims.
Remaining Diocese of Pittsburgh listening sessions are scheduled for:
Jamie Martines is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jamie at 724-850-2867, [email protected] or via Twitter @Jamie_Martines.