Ash Wednesday, which opens the solemn Christian season of Lent, is a period of time during which faithful examine their own selves, sometimes commit to sacrifices such as giving up an indulgence and seek spiritual cleansing. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo, acknowledging its clergy sexual abuse scandal, is marking Ash Wednesday 2019 as the start of a year-long prayer of healing for church abuse victims and the church itself.
Churches within the Diocese of Buffalo are being asked to display a lit purple candle beginning Ash Wednesday and for the next year. During a noon-hour Ash Wednesday Mass in St. Joseph's Cathedral in downtown Buffalo, Bishop Richard Malone lit such a candle and led a prayer, petitioning God to "embrace and heal our brothers and sisters who carry the wounds of abuse inflicted upon them."
The prayer goes on to ask for healing within a Church "broken by this betrayal of trust" and seeks a cleansing and sanctifying of clergy.
Bishop Malone, whose handling of the crisis has put him under intense scrutiny including calls for resignation, spoke of "spiritual amnesia" during his homily. While it was a reference to the occasional forgetting of Christian values by faithful in their everyday lives, he also applied it to clergy.
The Mass was well-attended. Rich Krodthoff was among the hundreds who came to receive ashes and explained that sacrifice and introspection in the Lenten season is not simply saying "I'm bad." Rather, it's a search to find a way to simply be better.
"I think taking the time to say 'what is it that I can do,' to remind me of the sacrifice that we as Catholics and we as Christians... the mighty sacrifice Christ has done for us, we in some small way try to mirror ourselves to that sacrifice," he said.
Some left Mass early, with ashes on their foreheads, to return to jobs on time. Others stayed for the duration. When asked about the trying times the Church has endured with clergy sexual abuse accusations, Krodthoff expressed confidence that the Church and its faithful will overcome the challenge.
"We as Catholics are not going to give up on the Church," he said. "These evildoers, they were in the church but it doesn't mean they were part of the Church. They sort of separated themselves the minute they started to rationalize their behavior.
"The Church will not die. It's why we're all here."
Beginning with today's Ash Wednesday Mass, churches in the @BuffaloDiocese will display a purple candle for a Year of Prayer for Healing of Victims of Clergy Sexual Abuse and for the Church. @BishopRJMalone lit the candle inside St. Joseph's Cathedral during noon hour. @WBFO pic.twitter.com/HNcsAsIjPc
— Michael Mroziak (@MrozWBFO) March 6, 2019