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Prayer and Penance for All

Director’s Reflection

Dear Companions on the Journey,

This weekend, Cardinal Seán has called for all to be of Prayer and Penance for those affected by Clergy Sexual Abuse. Pope Francis requests churches around the world to pray and do penance for the harm done by clergy sexual abuse in the church. Thus we seek repentance for the sins of the Church, we pray for those who were abused, and we pray for continued healing for all those impacted by the abuse, including those who were abused, families, members of our church, and the community at large.

Here at the Paulist Center, we will be including prayers during the weekend masses.  Like Catholic Churches everywhere, we seek to be a community of healing, of honesty about our own sins, and a place of safety for all.  Through the years – long before I returned here in 2014 – our Administration has sought to be a healing community, including listening and healing sessions, supporting Voice of the Faithful (who sought to be a grassroots movement for reform in the church), and, most important, complying with the new guidelines and expectations to be a community safe for children…and for all.  This has not always been easy, as some have replied, “Oh, come on, this is just common sense.”  Well, some requirements for me as a priest and for all ministers in the Church have to go beyond what was considered in 1960 “common sense.”  Many Church leaders were negligent, naïve, and even dismissive of new norms, sometimes not understanding them, sometimes feeling that “since I’m not a pedophile, I don’t have to follow these.” I don’t think personnel at the Paulist Center have ever felt that, but I have heard such sentiments among other priests.  We cannot be vigilant enough when it comes to our children’s safety, even if the new norms may feel burdensome at times.

Most importantly we need to be a community on the watch – as they say in many cities, “if you see something, say something.” And we must be a community of healing for those who have been abused by Church leaders and for the families who have experienced the disruption and pain of sexual abuse.  And we pray for those victims who have died, especially those who died through suicide or addiction, unable to cope with the pain, that they may now live in peace with Christ.

We’re not there yet, but I pray that we are on the way, on the journey.  As Flannery O’Connor once said, “You will have found Christ when you are concerned with other people’s sufferings and not your own.”  We are on the road and we need to be patient and gentle with one another.

What do you think?

And let us pray for/with one another.


The Paulist Center