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Church strives for healing after scandal

From March 2007:

"Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel." — Ash Wednesday prayer during imposition of ashes.

As we continue through this season of Lent, a time to turn to the Lord, we are also reminded that this is the fifth year since the clergy sex-abuse scandal was made known.

Lent is a penitential season, a time to seek forgiveness from sins and a time to be reconciled with the Lord.

As the judicial vicar for the Archdiocese of St. Louis and as a member of the Archdiocesan Review Board, I ask forgiveness for all the acts of sexual abuse that occurred in our archdiocese and throughout the world.I have personally been outraged, horrified and ashamed by the sexual abuse that priests have perpetrated.

My heart has been broken and my spirit strained so many times by the all-too-many accounts of clergy sex abuse and the devastating effects that this abuse has had on the victims, their loved ones and our entire faith community.Some clergy have abused their trusted position, caused irreparable harm to victims and distorted the mission of the Church.

I, along with Archbishop Raymond L. Burke, and the entire archdiocese must continue to clearly state here and now that sexual abuse, in any form, is totally repugnant and is an abomination against the loving nature of our God.Sexual abuse injures the dignity of all human beings and has caused years of turmoil in its victims.

These past five years have been a difficult period for our Church.The voices of courageous survivors and those who have stood by them have been heard, and healing has taken place.We have listened to many survivors tell their painful stories.We have provided assistance for healing.Clergy-abusers have been removed from ministry. Programs for protecting children and youth have been implemented.

Still, scars remain.We must never forget. Let us all stay ever vigilant in protecting those who are among the most vulnerable — our children and youth.

This past Ash Wednesday, as ashes were imposed on our foreheads, we began the journey through Lent’s 40 days.We are a people in need of forgiveness. With that in mind I, as a member of the archdiocesan
administration and as a pastor, say that I am so sorry that any of God’s children have been harmed.We must do all we can so that this grave evil is never again repeated.

I would like to thank my brother priests who labor so generously and faithfully. Their example and fraternal support have so enriched my life.

Finally, I call on all clergy to examine our priestly commitment, to reflect on the depth of our own relationship with God and to resolve to be as good and upright a priest as we can possibly be — for the sake of our people, the Church and our own salvation.

May this Lenten season truly be a time of turning to the Lord and living out the Gospel message.

Msgr. Shamleffer is pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Clayton and judicial vicar for the Archdiocese of St. Louis.

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