On August 20th, Pope Francis responded to the recent reports of the sexual abuse crisis. He wrote a letter addressed to the People of God (the Catholic Church). In his letter he implores us to use the spiritual weapons of prayer and fasting to “uproot the culture of abuse.” He urges us “to look to Mary is to discover the model of a true follower of Christ.” Here are some excerpts from his letter, followed by my To Do and Not to Do suggestions.
I make my own the words of the then Cardinal Ratzinger when, during the Way of the Cross composed for Good Friday 2005, he identified with the cry of pain of so many victims and exclaimed: ‘How much filth there is in the Church, and even among those who, in the priesthood, ought to belong entirely to [Christ]! How much pride, how much self-complacency! Christ’s betrayal by his disciples, their unworthy reception of his body and blood, is certainly the greatest suffering endured by the Redeemer; it pierces his heart. We can only call to him from the depths of our hearts: ‘Kyrie eleison – Lord, save us!’ (cf. Mt 8:25)’ (Ninth Station).
I invite the entire holy faithful People of God to a penitential exercise of prayer and fasting, following the Lord’s command. This can awaken our conscience and arouse our solidarity and commitment to a culture of care that says “never again” to every form of abuse.
The only way that we have to respond to this evil that has darkened so many lives is to experience it as a task regarding all of us as the People of God. This awareness of being part of a people and a shared history will enable us to acknowledge our past sins and mistakes with a penitential openness that can allow us to be renewed from within. Without the active participation of all the Church’s members, everything being done to uproot the culture of abuse in our communities will not be successful in generating the necessary dynamics for sound and realistic change. The penitential dimension of fasting and prayer will help us as God’s People to come before the Lord and our wounded brothers and sisters as sinners imploring forgiveness and the grace of shame and conversion.
Penance and prayer will help us to open our eyes and our hearts to other people’s sufferings and to overcome the thirst for power and possessions that are so often the root of those evils. May fasting and prayer open our ears to the hushed pain felt by children, young people and the disabled. A fasting that can make us hunger and thirst for justice and impel us to walk in the truth, supporting all the judicial measures that may be necessary. A fasting that shakes us up and leads us to be committed in truth and charity with all men and women of good will, and with society in general, to combatting all forms of the abuse of power, sexual abuse and the abuse of conscience.
Mary chose to stand at the foot of her Son’s cross. She did so unhesitatingly, standing firmly by Jesus’ side. In this way, she reveals the way she lived her entire life. When we experience the desolation caused by these ecclesial wounds, we will do well, with Mary, “to insist more upon prayer,” seeking to grow all the more in love and fidelity to the Church (Saint Ignatius of Loyola, Spiritual Exercises, 319). She, the first of the disciples, teaches all of us as disciples how we are to halt before the sufferings of the innocent, without excuses or cowardice. To look to Mary is to discover the model of a true follower of Christ.
What Should We Do?
Let us heed the call of Pope Francis and “look to Mary,” particularly under her title of Our Lady of America. In 1956, she asked America for purity, but America gave her the Sexual Revolution and the sexual abuse crisis. She asked that America “be the country dedicated to my purity” and that her children in America “be the children of my Pure Heart.”
Let us be mindful that this is not only a sexual abuse crisis, but a crisis of a homosexual culture of priests and bishops that practice same-sex sexual acts, that commits sexual abuse and that enables sexual abusers.
Let us petition the bishops to look to Our Lady of America and to respond to her request to solemnly process and install her statue in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington DC as a safeguard for our country, as she promised. Please sign our respectful Petition to the bishops to do so.
The time is ripe for the installation of her statute. It would give the priest and bishop sexual abusers and their priest and bishop enablers the opportunity to make penitential pilgrimages to Our Lady of America with their brothers in the clergy and the laity to her shrine in order for her to teach all to become pure like her and to satisfy her desire. She said, “I desire, through my children of America, to further the cause of faith and purity among peoples and nations. Let them come to me with confidence and simplicity, and I, their Mother, will teach them to become pure like to my Heart that their own hearts may be more pleasing to the Heart of my Son.” Pray that the bishops will let all come to her statue in her shrine!
Let us also make reparation for the suffering of Jesus from what Pope Benedict XVI called the priests’ and bishops’ sexual abusers’ “unworthy reception of his body and blood, [that is] certainly the greatest suffering endured by the Redeemer. It pierces his heart.” We can make reparation for their sacrilegious communions by making holy communions. Please sign our Pledge to Offer Reparation for Sacrilegious Communions.
Let us heed the call of Pope Francis to “insist on more prayer.” Let us pray the Novena to Our Lady of America for the intentions that God will heal and bring justice to all of the survivors of sexual abuse and their families; that he will purify the Church of priest and bishop sexual abusers and enablers of sexual abusers and bring them to conversion; that the faithful celibate priests and bishops will persevere and will be able to endure the distrust, shame and humiliation cast upon them due to the priest and bishop sexual abusers and enablers and that the canon laws of the Church will be enforced against them as well as the criminal laws of the state and federal governments.
Let us heed the call of Pope Francis to practice as we are able “the penitential dimension of fasting and prayer.” Jesus said, “This kind [of demon] can go out by nothing, but by prayer and fasting” (Mark 9:29).
This week, a group of lay Catholics have started a call to fast and pray for 40 days starting on August 22nn, the Queenship of Mary through the month of September, the month of Our Lady’s Sorrows. These will be acts of reparation to God for the sins of the sexual abuse crisis. We are called to make daily sacrifices appropriate to our own circumstances for this intention. The campaign is called #sackclothandashes.
Finally, let us participate in the 26th International Week of Prayer and Fasting, (Saturday, September 29th, Feast of the Archangels, through Sunday, October 7th, 2018, Feast of the Holy Rosary). I have personally participated as a speaker and master of ceremonies in this prayer and fasting campaign. One of the five goals is to pray and fast for priests and the Church during this grave crisis. Sign up to pray and fast here!
What Should We Not Do?
Let us not abandon the Church, but heed the call of Pope Francis for “the active participation of all the Church’s members to uproot the culture of abuse.” The Church was founded by Jesus Christ so it is divine with human priests and bishops who have committed grave evils of sexual abuse and enabling sexual abuse. This is no occasion to abandon the Church, but to stand our ground and defend it from this satanic attack. Let us say with St. Peter, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). Let us have faith in the words of Jesus, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).
Let us not reduce or withhold our contributions, according to our ability, for the support of the Church. This may be sinful. The fifth precept (commandment) of the Church is, “You shall help to provide for the needs of the Church.”
Let us not be angry or depressed, but hopeful that God is bringing us a renewed Church by exposing the sins and corruption of its clergy and by healing their victims. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).
Pope Benedict XVI wrote prophetically in his book, Faith and the Future, originally presented as radio addresses in 1969-70, when he was Father Joseph Ratzinger,
When the trial of this sifting is past, a great power will flow from a more spiritualized and simplified Church. Men in a totally planned world will find themselves unspeakably lonely. If they have completely lost sight of God, they will feel the whole horror of their poverty. Then they will discover the little flock of believers as something wholly new. They will discover it as a hope that is meant for them, an answer for which they have always been searching in secret.
And so it seems certain to me that the Church is facing very hard times. The real crisis has scarcely begun. We will have to count on terrific upheavals. But I am equally certain about what will remain at the end: not the Church of the political cult, which is dead already, but the Church of faith. She may well no longer be the dominant social power to the extent that she was until recently; but she will enjoy a fresh blossoming and be seen as man’s home, where he will find life and hope beyond death.