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Scharfenberger says he 'deeply regrets' results of private mass with accused priests

Avery Schneider

The interim head of the Buffalo Catholic Diocese is getting some sharp criticism for holding a private mass with several priests accused of child sex abuse.

Bishop Edward Scharfenberger celebrated the private Mass at St. Leo the Great Church in Amherst on Monday, as Catholics prepare to celebrate Lent, a season of reflection that begins on Ash Wednesday and concludes with Easter. One sexual abuse survivor was heard to say it was "an all-time low moment" just when he was ready to begin healing.

In a statement released Tuesday, Scharfenberger acknowledged the concern expressed over his decision "to allow priests who have been placed on administrative leave or who do not have faculties to celebrate the sacraments publicly to participate in Mass with me and other priests of the Diocese."

"I deeply regret that this decision to gather privately in prayer and penance opened the door to yet another wound for those harmed," he said.

He said the mass "had as its emphasis the need for true personal remorse and penance for the harm caused to victim-survivors," Scharfenberger continued. "I want to emphasize that in no way should the participation of certain priests be seen as a restoration of their faculties to celebrate the sacraments publicly, or certainly not in any way to disregard the grave emotional, physical and spiritual harm inflicted on innocent persons."

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