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Bishop establishes abuse task force

April 11, 2019

Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger is calling for comprehensive reform that is focused on accompanying and supporting survivors, following the Vatican summit on clerical sex abuse (February 21-24).

With eight points laid down by Pope Francis in an “all-out battle” against child sex abuse, he has created a Task Force to establish protocols for greater accountability and increased transparency at all levels of the Diocese of Albany, while integrating the healing journey of clergy-abuse survivors and their families into the life of the Church.

“Most importantly, I want to offer ways for the whole family of our Church to heal, because all of us have been incomplete as long as survivors and their family members have suffered in silence and isolation,” said Bishop Scharfenberger. “I know from experience that survivors can be ‘wounded healers’ offering wisdom and grace to the Church and to the world.”

To implement these reforms in a timely and deliberative manner, Bishop Scharfenberger has announced the formation of a cross-discipline Task Force comprised of diverse points of view and expertise, including survivors, parents, professionals, and community and parish leaders. The independent advisory group is tasked with assessing and recommending upgrades to existing diocesan protocols and processes and to programs that support development of a trauma-informed pastoral outreach to clergy-abuse survivors and/or family members. The goal of this advisory group is to evaluate past and present practices and to devise a path forward with regard to a holistic approach to survivor ministry and to the overall well being of all Catholics in the Diocese now and in the future.

The Task Force will meet every four to six weeks on the Siena College campus for a minimum of one year. It will be guided by the universal call from God to holiness in Christ to promote moral integrity, spiritual conversion, constructive dialogue, and healing forgiveness among clergy and laity. The Task Force will also focus on temporal accountability (e.g., reviewing the Diocesan Code of Conduct), financial transparency, restorative justice practices, protocols for announcing abuse allegations, due process and, above all, survivor support.

“The Task Force will serve as a sounding board to ensure that what we are hearing from our people can drive changes we must make to meet the challenges we face,” Bishop Scharfenberger said, adding how he believes the Task Force will help integrate what the Diocese has achieved in child protection practices and in its Diocesan Review Board with the full life of the Church. “We owe this to all our people,” Bishop Scharfenberger explained, “because so many of our Catholics give generously of time and heart and treasure to minister in our Diocese and in the world. We must help them as they help others encounter the Lord with trust and hope.”

In his letter to priests and deacons last July 29, Bishop Scharfenberger wrote, “Let me be clear, however, in stating my firm conviction that this is, at heart, much more than a crisis of policies and procedures. We can — and I am confident that we will — strengthen the rules and regulations and sanctions against any trying to fly under the radar or to ‘get away with’ such evil and destructive behaviors. But, at its heart, this is much more than a challenge of law enforcement. It is a profoundly spiritual crisis.” Addressing the spiritual and moral roots of the crisis will be a critical component of the Task Force’s commission.

“We are holding ourselves accountable before our people. No stone will be left unturned,” Bishop Scharfenberger said. “Task Force members represent a cross-section of people in the Diocese who have the fortitude, experience and wisdom to bear the burden of addressing these critical issues in this dark hour. Yet, we will keep a light cast on the assessments and work with monthly progress reports released in The Evangelist.” 

Members of the Task Force 

Jaclyn Brilling, J.D.
Mother, Certified Mediator, Member of Albany Diocesan Review Board, Lawyer 

William J. Cromie, M.D., M.B.A. 
Father, Physician, Co-founder and former President/CEO of CDPHP 

Thomas J. Gamble, Ph.D.  
Father, President of Maria College 

Victoria A. Graffeo, J.D. 
Mother, Judge on the New York State Court of Appeals (2000-2014) 

Very Rev. Robert Longobucco 
Pastor, Vicar for Education 

Sister Eileen McCann, C.S.J., M.S. 
Educational Psychology 
Sisters of St. Joseph of the Albany Province, Province Leadership Team (July 2013 to present) and Canonical Treasurer, USCCB Coordinator for Youth and Young Adult Ministry November 2004 – December 2012) 

Teresa Pitt Green 
Co-founder of Spirit Fire for Restorative Justice, mediator and facilitator for Organizational Development, Co-founder of The Healing Voices Magazine, Leader of Northern Virginia Human Trafficking Task Force, Survivor of Clergy Abuse 

Charles F. Seifert, M.B.A., Ph.D. 
Father, Dean of the School of Business and Professor of Management (Siena College) 

Robin B. Tassinari, M.D. 
Father, Diplomate (American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology), Professor of Psychiatry and Internal Medicine at Albany Medical?College and attending psychiatrist at Albany Medical Center Hospital and the Capital District Psychiatric Center 

Luis A. Torres, Jr., J.D. 
Father, Co-Founder of Spirit Fire for Restorative Justice, Public Policy Expert, Brooklyn Diocese Survivor Program, Lawyer, Survivor of Clergy Abuse  

Giovanni Virgiglio, Jr., M.S., M.S.Ed. 
Chancellor, Superintendent of Schools