September 21, 2018

Holy hour is an initial step in long road to recovery, healing

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson delivers a homily during a “Holy Hour of Prayer, Penance and Healing” on Sept. 15 at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson delivers a homily during a “Holy Hour of Prayer, Penance and Healing” on Sept. 15 at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

(Following is Archbishop Charles C. Thompson’s homily for the “Holy Hour of Prayer, Penance and Healing” on Sept. 15 at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis.)

On the Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows, I cannot begin to imagine the depth of sorrow that is being felt and experienced by so many, both within and outside the Church.

This “Holy Hour of Prayer, Penance and Healing” is merely an initial step in the long road of recovery, and it must begin with my deepest apologies for the atrocious sins of abuse, neglect and omission by those who have been entrusted with the mission of caring, loving, respecting, protecting, defending, honoring and healing. This includes clergy and others who serve in the Church.

I express my sincere apology for the failures, especially if criminal, of bishops who have acted in any way contrary to the episcopal mission of witness, pastoral care and oversight. In other words, those who, as the prophet Ezekiel mentions in the first reading, did not act in imitation of the Good Shepherd.

We particularly ache for the most vulnerable and innocent among us … children and youth … who have been victimized. One very notable U.S. archbishop likened the sexual abuse scandal to an incredibly destructive storm, not of rain or wind, but man-made, which will necessarily include a road to recovery like that of any devastating disaster.

The hurt, anger, disillusionment and woundedness—justifiable anger at that—runs very deep by what has been done and what we have failed to do.

The road to recovery necessarily involves more than apologies. While prayer is essential, as signified in this Holy Hour, there clearly must be action. The U.S. bishops are being called upon to provide more independent reporting of concerns involving bishops themselves and greater lay involvement in the process of oversight, among other things. I am confident that these will be put in place.

Since 2002, a great deal of action has taken place here in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. In addition to a very solid Review Board of talented, qualified professionals—lay persons in the fields of psychology, law enforcement, legal expertise and others—a very independent means of receiving accusations and reporting to proper civil authorities has been in operation for several years.

Additionally, the archdiocese undergoes a thorough audit by an independent firm to make sure we are complying with the “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.”

This does not mean, however, that there is not room for improvement. If we have learned anything these last few weeks, we must remain ever diligent, vigilant and courageous. Trust can only be restored by greater transparency and accountability.

Several have written or spoken to me about both the formation and the well‑being of our seminarians. I believe we are blessed with a wonderful vocation office which includes clergy and laity, as well as two very sound seminaries in Simon Bruté College Seminary, here in Indianapolis, and St. Meinrad School of Theology, in the southern part of the archdiocese.

We have an extensive screening and formation process that focusses on quality rather than quantity of candidates. Our archdiocesan vocation team works closely with our seminarians to provide them with all means of security, safety, care and reporting of any inappropriate behavior. In light of all that has transpired, we must discern how we can do even more to both protect and prepare our seminarians.

Our priests, like so many of our good people throughout central and southern Indiana, are hurting as well. Even one act of sexual abuse or harassment, causing a lifetime of pain and anguish, is too many.

A great cloud hangs over so many of our wonderful priests who remain ever faithful in their witness of priestly ministry and service. This particular moment, however, is about prayer, penance and healing.

I thank you for your presence here today in prayer and ask you to join me in prayer not only during this sacred Hour, but continuously as we strive to move forward. This includes both individual and communal prayer. We especially need the grace of the sacraments and the Word of God in order to persevere in faith, hope and love charity.

With regard to the second aspect of this Hour, it must be your bishop who submits first and foremost to acts of penance by means of ongoing prayer and fasting for victims of abuse and their families. Many of my brother priests have already begun a weekly intention of fasting and praying on Thursdays for this very cause.

Today’s symbol of prostration at the beginning of this liturgy is meant as an act of penance and a pledge of doing everything in my power to do what is right, just and holy in eradicating the great scourge of sexual abuse and sexual harassment of all persons, most especially children and young people, making every effort to prevent it from happening again.

The healing will take time, a lifetime for so many. To that end, we must provide victims with the opportunities to be heard, understood, counseled, renewed, appreciated and respected as beloved children of God.

And please, we need to hear from any victim who has not yet come forward. For as one suffers, we all suffer. As Jesus prays in the Gospel, we are one with the Father only when we are one with one another in and through him, Jesus Christ, our Savior.

In the end, however, it is ultimately the grace of God that brings about healing, redemption and salvation for us all. That grace has been made possible through the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

As we commemorate the Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows, we must keep in mind that our Blessed Mother did not despair in her sorrow. As she endured with her Son, his passion and cross, so we must do so with one another.

It is in the Cross that we find the grace of healing, peace, reconciliation and redemption. It is through the Cross that we come to know and realize that vision in the second reading. In the words of St. Theodora Guérin, the first in the Hoosier state to be canonized; “Let us take courage; the Cross, it is true, awaits us at every turn, but it is the way to heaven.”

The cross came about as a horrific instrument of torment, humiliation, condemnation and death. In and through Jesus Christ, it was transformed into the sign of salvation and redemption. Beyond the cross is the empty tomb, pointing to the Resurrection, where sorrow is eventually turned into joy, a joy that God alone can provide.

Here, as we gather today in this eucharistic adoration, we are reminded through this Eucharist, through this exposition, that we must remain Christ‑centered if we wish to rise from the ashes. For He alone is the Way, the Truth and the Life (cf. John 14:6). †


Related story: Archbishop Thompson leads holy hour in response to clergy sexual abuse crisis

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