I have said it before. I will say it again: Bishop Zubik makes me very proud to be a native son of the Diocese of Pittsburgh.
His words are worth citing here in full:
“I’m Sorry; We’re Sorry”
The following is the reflection given by Bishop Zubik
at the Service of Apology on
Tuesday, April 7, 2009 at
Saint Paul Cathedral, Pittsburgh
In the name of and on behalf of the nearly 800,000 faithful of the Church of Pittsburgh, I am humbled to welcome and thank all who have gathered together in this moment of prayer. This night we take the opportunity to both acknowledge and celebrate God’s mercy and forgiveness as we acknowledge the failings, the sins of men and women who represent the Church. And while the Church is truly divine, fully given its mission as the Body of Christ by Jesus Himself, we are also a very human Church, comprised of people who are human and sinful. You come here, many of you, with hurts that you hold, and perhaps painfully so, in the inner recesses of your hearts. And so within the context of our prayer, as Bishop of this Church of Pittsburgh, I stand here to apologize in the name of the Church for any ways in which any representatives of the Church have hurt you.
Now I ask you to turn your attention to three powerful vignettes which speak to our being here this night.
Within this context and in anticipation of the millennium year 2000, the late great Pope John Paul II stood before the world’s stage and did something unprecedented. He asked the world for forgiveness for the ways in which the world was hurt by the words and actions of the members and leaders of the Church.
In prayerful fashion, Pope John Paul II began his apology quoting from the Old Testament Book of Daniel: “Blessed are you O Lord, the God of our Fathers for we have sinned and transgressed by departing from you and we have done every kind of evil. Your commandments we have not heeded or observed.” (Daniel 3:26, 29-30) The Pope continued: “The Church imitates an example of this prayer and asks forgiveness for the historical sins of all of her children. “Church should become fully conscious of the sinfulness of her children recalling all those times in history … when … instead of offering to the world the witness of a life inspired by the values of faith, indulged in ways of thinking and acting which were truly forms of counter witness and scandal especially when they involve the respect that is owed to individuals and communities.”
The second story is the one we’ve heard tonight from the lips of Jesus Himself. Shortly after His resurrection from the dead, Jesus meets an embarrassed Peter as head of the Church, a position entrusted to him by Jesus Himself, who must now look Jesus eyeball to eyeball and acknowledge that he betrayed Jesus not once, not twice, but three times. With three questions from the lips of Jesus, “Simon Peter, do you love me more than these others do?”; a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”; and again a third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Jesus gave Peter, “the head of the Church” not one, not two, but three opportunities to both acknowledge his sins and failures and to respond to new opportunities of trust. To Peter, Jesus said, “feed my lambs;” “look after my sheep;” “feed my sheep.” And in answer to each of Jesus’ three questions, embracing Jesus’ three acts of trust, Peter responded by saying, “Lord, you know that I love you.”
The third story and clearly the most painful of the stories is our story, our gathering together in this Mother Church of Pittsburgh. In a very real moment of woundedness, I stand before you tonight as Shepherd of the Church of Pittsburgh and embrace the presence of each of you, women and men, who come here tonight showing by your presence that somewhere, sometime in your life you have been hurt by someone who was entrusted to represent Jesus and His Church, but failed to do so. Some of you have already expressed your hurt; for many others of you, you do so this night by your being here. You call me, as leader of the Church of Pittsburgh, to not only not forget the sins of those who have hurt you, but you charge me with the need to continue to work to secure that the sins not happen again.
As I stand before you, I see also the face of Christ, the Jesus who met Peter on the seashore, confronting Peter’s betrayal. Your very presence here tonight both painful and trusting, confronts the need for the Church to ask forgiveness from you and the opportunity to renew your trust in the Church as Jesus renewed His trust in Peter.
To those of you who looked for the compassion of Christ in the sacrament of Penance but found only scolding and harsh judgment in return—I ask you, the Church asks you, for forgiveness.
To those of you who found sacred moments in your life and the life of your family (baptisms, weddings, funerals) met with callous, heartless, unfeeling, un-Christian-like attention to your need—I ask you, the Church asks you, for forgiveness.
To those of you who are here tonight who have in any way been the victims of any abuse, sexual or otherwise, whether as a child or as an adult, or as a parent, or sibling, or friend who shared in the pain of that someone you love—I ask you, the Church asks you, for forgiveness.
To those of you who came to the Church, rightly expecting her to help you understand the rich tradition of our teachings and traditions, but met with a less than half-hearted response—I ask you, the Church asks you, for forgiveness.
To those of you who have been hurt by the poor judgment of others entrusted with leadership—I ask you, the Church asks you, for forgiveness.
To those of you who believed in the Church to be a voice against prejudice but found, rather, a deafening silence—I ask you, the Church asks you, for forgiveness.
To those of you who looked to the leaders of the Church—lay, religious or ordained—to give good example but met, rather, with a philosophy that said: “Do as I say, not as I do,”—I ask you, the Church asks you, for forgiveness.
To those of you who needed the Church to be with you in sickness, in grief, in trauma, in turmoil, but found her representatives to be too busy—I ask you, the Church asks you, for forgiveness.
To those of you who have offered your talents for the mission of the Church, but experienced an injustice in the Church’s workplace—I ask you, the Church asks you, for forgiveness.
For whatever ways any representative of the Church has hurt, offended, dismissed, ignored, any one of you—I ask you, the Church asks you, for forgiveness.
For any ways that I personally, as your Bishop, whether in speech or deed, by omission and commission, have disappointed, not heard, or dismissed you, I ask you for your forgiveness.
At the conclusion of his public act of repentance for the sins of anyone who represented the Church, Pope John Paul II said: “the penitent attitude of the Church in our time turns our gaze to the past and to the recognition of sins, so that they will serve as a lesson for a future of ever clearer witness.”
With all the love in my heart and with all the sincerity in my soul, you can be assured that I will do all that I am able to do to restore your trust in the Church and to work together with you to reflect the very love, compassion, mercy of Jesus Himself in and through the Church.
Shortly before her death from cancer in 1990, Sister Thea Bowman, an African American Sister who had a reputation of portraying the very face of Christ and challenged all whom she met to become more like Christ, was part of a concert for people afflicted with AIDS. Her words that day brought a challenge to all. Thea Bowman said: “I have come tonight seeking a blessing. I have come tonight seeking a healing. I don’t usually talk about myself, but tonight I want to tell you a little about me. I have cancer. More importantly, I have something in common with my brothers and sisters who have AIDS—weight loss, hair loss, loss of voice, weakness, fatigue, exhaustion. I’m here tonight to say, God IS! GOD MADE ME! GOD LOVES ME. I WANT TO LIVE MY BEST; I WANT TO LOVE MY BEST; I WANT TO DO MY BEST; I WANT TO GIVE MY BEST.”
Like Sister Thea, I stand before you tonight on behalf of the Church seeking your blessing, seeking your forgiveness, seeking a healing so that we as Church can live our best; love our best; do our best; and give our best.