By Tim Harfmann
Albany’s Bishop Edward Scharfenberger promised to bring his powerful history of protecting young and vulnerable people from abuse to his new assignment in Buffalo.
His assured Catholics on Dec. 4 that he understands their need for healing.
“This family has been suffering quite a bit in recent months and years, and my heart just goes out to you. And what I see is a need for a tremendous amount of healing,” said Bishop Scharfenberger.
He outlined what his first step would be to help the diocese overcome the past.
“My first priorities will primarily be to listen. I want to hear what’s in your hearts and what your concerns are, where you think we should go,” he said.
Bishop Scharfenberger is taking on the Buffalo mission while he continues as leader of the Diocese of Albany.
The practices he put in place there will accompany him in his new assignment.
“I want everyone to know that they will be treated with respect. I continue, as I do in the Diocese of Albany, to say, ‘if you see something, say something,” he said.
The Brooklyn-born bishop was appointed by Pope Francis to lead the Diocese of Albany five-and-a-half years ago.
Building on his experience in the Diocese of Brooklyn, he’s become a national leader in responding to clergy abuse in Albany.
The bishop established a confidential reporting line, created a Victims Assistance Coordinator to work with survivors, and setup a predominately lay task force on sexual abuse, among many other initiatives.
He promised action in Buffalo.
“If it means clarifying our lists, you know, putting names up, putting up more information. Whatever can be done in a way that is transparent and responsible — absolutely,” he said.
As a Brooklyn priest, Scharfenberger was a member of the diocesan review board for sexual abuse of minors.
He believes his service in the diocese has better prepared him for his new appointment.
“It was an emotionally, spirituality, humanly, and very enriching experience for me in my life. And, I have to say, has great deal to do with my life right now.”
Bishop Scharfenberger said he doesn’t know how long he’ll be in Buffalo, but he’s vowing to do everything possible to protect people from abuse.