By Jessica Able, Record Staff Writer
About 85 Catholics gathered Oct. 5 at Holy Family Church for a prayer service led by Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, who spoke of lamentation, humility and reconciliation in response to the scourge of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.
The prayer service concluded a day of prayer and fasting “to inspire solidarity with victims of sexual abuse, to highlight efforts to renew and repair the church and to renew the clergy in their faithfulness to Christ in virtue and in service,” according to an announcement from the Archdiocese of Louisville.
The archbishop said during his homily that lament has a helpless quality because “you’d like the pain to go away. You’d like to move on.”
“We mourn many things. We mourn things that happened far away from here. But, we also mourn sad events that have happened right here: the abuse by priests and other church leaders of innocent children and young people,” he said.
Whether the abuse occurred 15 years ago or 50 years ago, he said, the pain is still there.
“The pain remains, the scars remain. So, this indeed is a
prayer of lament,” he said.
The archbishop spent the day in prayer and fasting, beginning with Mass at 8 a.m. He participated in the Stations of the Cross at 9 a.m., noon and 3 p.m.
Catholics around the archdiocese were invited to take part in the prayer and fasting in their homes and parishes.
“Jesus has told us that no action to convert, to change to reach out to others in need will be lasting if it does not begin with prayer and fasting,” he said during the evening service.
The archbishop lay prostrate during the hour-long service while reciting the Act of Penitence.
He noted that Pope Francis issued a letter in August to Catholics worldwide after revelations of widespread abuse that occurred over the course of 70 years in six Pennsylvania dioceses.
Quoting the Holy Father, he said, “With shame and repentance, we acknowledge as an ecclesial community that we were not where we should have been, that we did not act in a timely manner, realizing the magnitude and the gravity of the damage done to so many lives. We showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them.”
The archbishop called upon the Lord to “let us walk with the people in pain” and to also “correct the injustices that have been done and to help us create an environment that is safe for every child.”
“This prayer of lament deeply calls me, and perhaps you also, to acts of humility,” he said.
A prayer of humility that asks Jesus to guide us is needed, he said.
“We need a humility that is grounded in the truth. You know that no family will survive if that family ignores the truth, even the hard truth,” he said.
He noted the archdiocese will publish a document Oct. 18 in The Record detailing the history of abuse within the archdiocese. It will address the steps taken in the last 15 years to prevent subsequent abuse. And it will call for “vigilance and humility and forgiveness,” he said.
The act of seeking the truth “calls upon us to look for reconciliation,” the archbishop said in his homily.
“Every family, even the family who is the most hurt, always seeks to come together again,” he said, noting the day’s Gospel reading.
“The Gospel passage of the Beatitudes speaks of the reconciliation that is based on mercy and truth and the restoration of trust that only God’s grace can lead us to,” he said.
He noted that the church does not belong to the clergy nor does it belong to the laity, but instead it belongs to Jesus Christ.
“It is the church of Jesus Christ and we, humble and frail individuals, have been called by Christ to seek purity, to seek conduct that is right ordered and to seek protection of those who are most innocent,” he said.
In doing that, he said, “we hear the words of hope.”
Earlier in the day the archbishop said he reflected on the words of Psalm 130, which conveys an image of waiting in the darkness for the first hint of light.
“We as a church,” he said are also waiting “for the first glimmer of light that we might have healing, that we might seek right order in the way we live our lives and that as a church, beginning with me as the archbishop, we will humbly seek the truth and find ways to be closer and closer in holiness in Christ.”
Without Jesus Christ in our lives “we have no chance of renewal of the church. But with Christ all things are possible.”
He concluded his homily by holding in prayer those who have been sexually abused by members of the clergy.
“Join me especially in praying for victim survivors who have felt the pain, the pain of abuse by a priest, who have felt the lack of response by a bishop, who have sought simply to find the love of Christ where the love of Christ should be found — in the church,” he said.