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Mariana Hernandez prayed at a service for repentance and healing from clergy sexual abuse, which included prayers for victims, abusers and the Church Aug. 22 at Our Lady of the Brook in Northbrook, Ill.
Mariana Hernandez prayed at a service for repentance and healing from clergy sexual abuse, which included prayers for victims, abusers and the Church Aug. 22 at Our Lady of the Brook in Northbrook, Ill.
Photo Credit: Karen Callaway | Chicago Catholic

Clergy, laity pray for healing from abuse scandal

Prayer services and Holy Hours were among the gestures of sorrow, repentance and surrender to God

METUCHEN, N.J. — Standing before hundreds of laypeople, clergy, deacons and women religious of the Diocese of Metuchen, Bishop James F. Checchio made them a promise.

“Today, I pledge anew to use all my energy, all the grace God gives me, to be a source of healing and reconciliation, to be a source of hope. To do this I know is not simply words, but commitment to the right course of action,” Bishop Checchio said during a holy hour for healing, truth and hope at the Cathedral of St. Francis of Assisi Aug. 29.

“We cannot rest until we get this righted,” he said.

Scheduled to respond to a Pennsylvania grand jury report that hundreds of priests were accused of the sexual abuse of children and seminarians, the prayer service drew people from throughout the diocese for exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, prayer, song and reflection.

In a homily, Bishop Checchio recalled the words of St. Augustine upon being named bishop of Hippo in Africa: “What I am for you, a bishop, causes me to tremble; what I am with you, a Christian, gives me comfort.”

“Your presence here gives me great hope,” the bishop told the assembly, “but as your bishop, like St. Augustine, I am trembling too, at the thoughts of what all these serious violations mean for our life in our Church.

“When we hear of such abuse, particularly those of children, our hearts ache for the pain so many have suffered at the hands of those who were entrusted with their spiritual care and rippling damaging effects on their loved ones,” he continued. “It is a painful and horrific chapter in our history that must never be repeated.”

Bishop Checchio admitted he was “deeply saddened and ashamed” when he learned Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick had been accused of the sexual abuse of seminarians in the diocese while acting as the diocese’s first bishop from 1982 to 1986.

“I can’t tell you all often enough how deeply saddened and ashamed I have been to hear accounts that one of my predecessors used his authority over seminarians and young priests for his own advantage and lustful desires, affronting their human dignity,” the bishop said. “It angers me, too, that the trust of these young men, who came to the Church to follow their vocation to the sacred priesthood of Jesus Christ, was violated. … Making matters even worse is that some knew about this, but did not properly face it, refused to face it or simply hoped it would go away.

“I am moved to ask for forgiveness of you for these terrible sins and crimes of commission and omission, (and) I am equally committed to promoting a healthy, wholesome presbyterate,” he said. “I feel inspired in my life to enter more deeply into a life of repentance for these sins and for our Church. I encourage each of you to enter that pathway too.”

Bishop Checchio concluded by asking the assembly to pray for those who have been abused. “If it is the only prayer you are able to offer, let it be for them,” he said.

Like many parish priests, Msgr. Michael Wilson, pastor of Our Lady Star of the Sea Parish in Solomons, Md., in the Archdiocese of Washington, has also spoken frankly with his parishioners about this.

He has encouraged parishioners to come to adoration on Tuesdays and pray for healing in the Church, and to ask the Blessed Mother, their patroness, for her intercession, and to show they are united in their faith, by coming together for activities like their upcoming parish picnic.

He has reminded his parishioners that their faith is ultimately in Jesus Christ, and they are called to be His witnesses in how they live. “Now’s not the time to leave the Church. We all have to stand up and bear witness to the truth,” he added.

Many members of the laity and clergy stressed that prayer can’t be the only action. Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington was amonth those stressing the importance of Church accountability and engaging the laity in the wake of the scandals.

In the wake of recent events, including the Pennsylvania grand jury report and the pope’s Aug. 20 letter on the abuse crisis, Cardinal Beniamino Stella, prefect of the Congregation for Clergy at the Vatican, said addressing the problem of abuse does not depend “solely on the hierarchy and priests.”

“On the contrary, precisely clericalism, and often the reduction of the Church to an elite class, has generated an anomalous way of understanding authority that has devalued baptismal grace and, not infrequently, has contributed to forms of abuse, especially on a person’s conscience,” Cardinal Stella said.

Laypeople, he added, can contribute to “the essential human formation of the priest and the necessary spiritual solidarity of his life.”

Parishioners at a at Our Lady of the Brook Parish in Northbrook, Ill., also prayed during a penance service for clergy abuse August 25.

Wearing purple stoles symbolizing penance, Father Robert Heinz, pastor, and Father Dan Folwaczny, parochial vicar, laid prostrate before the altar at the beginning of the service, in a gesture of sorrow, repentance and surrender to God.

Mariana Hernandez attended the service at the invitation of a friend and said it is important for laypeople to respond.

“As part of the Church we have to take responsibility and pray,” she said.


Abp. Chaput asks pope to cancel youth synod, meet about bishops

By Matthew Gambino | Catholic News Service

PHILADELPHIA — Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput is asking Pope Francis to call off the Synod of Bishops on young people this October to focus instead on the life of the bishops.

Ken Gavin, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, confirmed the archbishop sent the request in a letter to the pope, but he offered no additional comments.

The archbishop gave his comments about canceling the synod during a panel discussion called the “Cardinals’ Forum,” sponsored by the Cardinal John Foley Chair of Social Communications and Homiletics and the Cardinal John Krol Chair of Moral Theology, both at the seminary.

The archbishop, who is set to participate in the synod on youth, was one of three panelists speaking on the topic “Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment,” the theme of the Oct. 3-28 synod in Rome.

Hundreds of bishops and young people representing youth from across the globe will engage in discussions at that meeting and typically, the pope attends some synod conferences. After the gathering’s conclusion, the bishops make recommendations to advise the pope as he formulates pastoral policy to address the specific issues discussed.

Pope Francis had previously confirmed Archbishop Chaput, chairman of the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, as one of only five American bishops to attend the synod, all of whom were elected by their peers in the USCCB.

The other Church leaders planning to attend are: Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, USCCB president; Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez, USCCB vice president; Bishop Frank J. Caggiano of Bridgeport, Connecticut, a member of the USCCB Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth; and Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop Robert E. Barron, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis.

Calls for reform in the Catholic hierarchy have risen throughout the summer as the clergy sexual abuse scandal has intensified, with bishops across the globe coming under scrutiny for their potential role in covering up cases of abuse of children and young adults.

And confidence in the credibility of Catholic bishops has been eroding in the wake of allegations against the former Washington Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick, the Pennsylvania grand jury report on 70 years of clergy child sexual abuse in the state and the explosive letter of Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the former U.S. papal nuncio, alleging the cover-up of Archbishop McCarrick’s abuse by bishops in the United States and in the Vatican.

In an Aug. 30 letter to the pope, Dallas Bishop Edward J. Burns asked for an extraordinary synod to address issues in the latest Catholic clergy sex abuse crisis.

“The current crisis of sexual abuse by clergy, the cover-up by leaders in the Church and the lack of fidelity of some have caused great harm,” the letter said. It suggests that this synod should include topics such as “the care and the safeguard of children and the vulnerable, outreach to victims, the identity and lifestyle of the clergy, the importance of healthy human formation within the presbyterate/religious community, etc.”

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