Bishops seek forgiveness for clergy abuse

VATICAN CITY — Bishops and religious leaders on Tuesday (Feb. 7) held an unprecedented service of repentance in Rome, seeking … Continued

VATICAN CITY — Bishops and religious leaders on Tuesday (Feb. 7) held an unprecedented service of repentance in Rome, seeking atonement for lapses in church management that led to the abuse of thousands of children by predatory priests.

“We implore forgiveness for those who have abused in various ways,” Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet, head of the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops, said during the rite at the Church of St. Ignatius.

“This evil is within us and severely tarnishes our testimony,” he admitted, and said church leaders have at times “become an instrument of evil” toward those they were charged to protect.

The ceremony was organized as part of a Vatican-sponsored conference at Rome’s Gregorian University to help bishops meet a May deadline to craft voluntary “guidelines” to improve the church’s handling of abuse cases.

Representatives of six groups who were in various ways involved in sexual abuse — including the head of a religious order, a teacher and a priest — apologized to Mary Collins, an abuse victim from Ireland who served as a representative of all abuse victims.

At the end of the service, Collins asked God for the “strength” to forgive, so that the church “may be healed.”

The vigil started with 15 minutes of silence as the church was shrouded in darkness, and ended with the lighting of candles held by the participants. Earlier in the day, Collins told conference participants of her personal experience of abuse.

“Those fingers that would abuse my body the night before were the next morning holding and offering me the sacred host,” she said of the priest who abused her when she was 13.

She also recalled the “collapse” of her confidence in church authorities, as the archbishop she had confided her story to focused on trying to protect the “good name” of the priest, and refused to suspend him from ministry.

During the conference, Monsignor Stephen J. Rossetti, a professor at Catholic University of America and the former director of a Maryland treatment center for troubled priests, told bishops that predator priests usually lie when confronted with an accusation.

By contrast, he said, abuse victims usually tell the truth when they recount their ordeal. Rossetti also warned that abuser priests are not easily cured and need constant monitoring, and that returning them to ministry is almost impossible.

“Once a priest has sexually molested a minor,” he said, “he forever loses his privilege of ministering as a priest.”

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  • usapdx

    To silence the truth to protect the image was wrong from day one. This 2/7/12 Vatican event is a P.R. stunt.

  • pwill

    The Vatican just can’t win, can it?

  • snapjudy

    quoted” “We implore forgiveness for those who have abused in various ways,”

    When a criminal is standing before the judge and being sentenced for his crimes, he can “plead for forgiveness all he wants” but he will still be sendenced for his crimes. Otherwise nothing will change, Kids will still get sexually abused with this system.

    Those who have sexually abused kids, and those who have covered up those crimes, need to be held accountable, before they can every ask for forgiveness.

    Judy Jones, SNAP Midwest Associate Director, USA, 636-433-2511

    “Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests” and all clergy.

    (SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims.

    SNAP was founded in 1988 and has more than 12,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers and increasingly, victims who were assaulted in a wide range of institutional settings like summer camps, athletic programs, Boy Scouts, etc. Our website is