Diocese spokeswoman Brenda Riojas said Tuesday that Bishop Raymundo Peña has asked Deacon Alvin Gerbermann to undergo additional training before he gives any more homilies, the remarks made during Mass that explain a selection of Bible passages.
The training will include a program about preventing sexual abuse called “Protecting God’s Children,” which the diocese created after revelations of child molestation within the Catholic Church. In addition, Gerbermann will be required to retake a course taught by the diocese on how to give homilies, Riojas said.
The remarks that prompted the outcry from some parishioners and local members of the church reform group Call to Action occurred during Sunday Mass on Feb. 18. News of the controversy also attracted statements from national groups calling for reform in the church.
Gerbermann published a short apology in Holy Spirit’s Sunday bulletin for words that “may have caused misunderstanding.”
He added: “I’m truly sorry if I offended anyone.”
Gerbermann, reached on his cell phone Tuesday afternoon, said he did not have time to respond to questions, as he was occupied at the time. He did not respond to a message left on his cell phone Tuesday night.
Neither Gerbermann nor the church has made clear whether a written copy of the homily exists, nor have they provided the text of those remarks.
The Rev. Louis Brum, the priest at Holy Spirit, also said Tuesday afternoon he did not have time to talk. He did not respond to a message left on his phone Tuesday night.
Gerald Brazier, the president of Call to Action’s local chapter, reacted with surprise to news of Gerbermann’s required training.
“So he has to go through some retraining? Oh my heavens,” Brazier said.
“They did a lot more than I ever thought they would,” he added, referring to the diocese.
But Call to Action members and some parishioners said they were still not satisfied by Gerbermann’s mea culpa.
Call to Action issued a statement saying, in part, “The Deacon claims that his remarks were ‘misunderstood’ and that he apologizes ‘if he offended anyone.’ There is no hypothetical at play here, people were offended.”
The statement also criticized Brum, who was present at the Mass when Gerbermann delivered his homily, for his remarks last week that parishioners taking umbrage at the statements were misinterpreting Gerbermann’s intent.
Parishioner Harold Mosher, who had been an outspoken and early critic of the remarks, also called the apology insufficient.
“The deacon's apology consisted of three sentences placed in the parish bulletin,” Mosher wrote in an e-mail.~“He did not even show up for the 12:30 mass on Sunday.”
Brum had said last week that Gerbermann would be away over the weekend because of other commitments.
Kaitlin Bell covers Mission, western Hidalgo County and general assignments for The Monitor. You can reach her at (956) 683-4446.