New bishop of Diocese of Arlington vows to reach out to sex abuse victims

ARLINGTON, Va. — Bishop Michael Burbidge, newly-appointed Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Arlington, vows to personally reach out to victims of clergy sexual abuse, and  “to accompany them in this process of healing.”

In a news conference with outgoing Bishop Paul Loverde, 76, who has led the Diocese since 1999, Burbidge, most recently the bishop in Raleigh, says he has been aware of Loverde’s outreach to victims.

In 2004, Loverde celebrated the first of a series of healing masses, deeply apologizing for the pain inflicted on victims, and “for not seeing more deeply and fully the horrendous evil” of the abuse.

In response to a question, Burbidge, 59, said he intends to speak with victims, “to listen to them, to pray with them, and to accompany them in this process of healing, which we know is ongoing.”

“I assure you, and I assure the victims and their families, that I will continue this great work,” said Burbidge.

Asked about the combative political tone leading to the presidential election, Burbidge said the church doesn’t tell people for whom to vote.

“It requires homework, you have to know what people are saying, and do more than just reading blogs and headlines,” Burbidge said.

“You have to pray for the grace to be enlightened, and be formed in your decision by keeping the highest of priorities, and for us, that’s always the sacredness of all human life, and the dignity of every human person,” he said.

Regarding the rhetoric and harsh tone in politics, Burbidge echoed the words of Pope Francis — “more than ever, we have to learn the true meaning of dialogue.”

Burbidge said dialogue means a willingness to listen to another — “even those who passionately disagree with you, and respond, but always with respect.”

Burbidge said there is nothing wrong with discussing serious issues, even when there is disagreement.

“We don’t label one another. We don’t put people in categories. We don’t act as though we’re divided, Burbidge said. “We have to be in this together.”

Loverde had sent a mandatory letter of resignation to the Pope last September, on his 75th birthday.

He was advised this week that Pope Francis had selected Bishop Burbidge to head the Arlington Diocese, and had accepted his resignation.

Loverde said he will live locally in a retirement home for priests, and will be available to assist his successor and speak at upcoming retreats.

Loverde will serve as apostolic administrator until Burbidge’s installation, the diocese said.

Burbidge will be the fourth bishop of the diocese. He’ll officially take leadership at a Mass of Installation to be held Dec. 6.

Burbidge was born in Philadelphia and became a priest in 1984, according to a statement from the diocese. He became auxiliary bishop of Philadelphia in 2002, then bishop of Raleigh in 2006.

WTOP’s Rick Massimo contributed to this story.


Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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