Dear Catholic clergy,
Please, say something about the Pennsylvania report at Mass. At every Mass. We need to hear you say something about it. We need to know you are paying attention, that this is not just business as usual.
If you don’t know what to say, or if, after discernment with input from others, it is your pastoral judgment that addressing the matter plainly will cause more harm than good, I gently invite you to use these words.
When: At the beginning of mass, immediately after the greeting.
What: In light of the recent report about the churches in Pennsylvania, let us begin Mass with a moment of silent prayer:
for all those who were harmed;
for the repentance of the men who harmed them;
and for the conversion of the men who covered it up and allowed it to continue.
(Spend at least 45 seconds in silent prayer. More is better.)
(During this prayer, your posture and demeanor should be penitent.)
(Hopefully, that part will come naturally.)
I have deliberately worded this prayer without any explicit reference to sexual abuse, children, priests, or bishops. This is because I know there are priests out there who have been confronted by furious parents for mentioning these topics in front of their young children, thus forcing the parents to explain, and who are therefore adamant about not talking about it at Mass.
If you are one of those priests, please, I beg you, use this prayer. I wrote it for you. It is vague enough that those furious parents can gloss over it to their children: “There was a report about a lot of sad things that happened in Pennsylvania, so we’re praying for the people who were involved.”
If you are *not* one of those priests, please, I beg you, be more explicit:
In light of the recent report about the horrific crimes that were committed across six dioceses in Pennsylvania, let us begin Mass with a moment of silent prayer:
for all the children who were sexually abused;
for the repentance of the priests who abused them;
and for the conversion of the bishops who covered it up and allowed it to continue.
Additionally, I encourage the use of this prayer at the beginning of every prayer service, every rosary, and every meeting in every parish for the foreseeable future. It can be offered by clergy or laity: whoever is convening the meeting or offering the invocation.
Please, give us this prayer, or something like it. Give us your prayer. Give us a space and a structure for our prayers.
Above all, do not keep silent. You know, and we know, that keeping silent was an intrinsic element of the sins that were committed in Pennsylvania, and in all the other places that we don’t know about yet,
because the people who do know
have kept silent.
Gracious God, we pray for your holy catholic church.
Fill it with your truth;
Keep it in your peace.
Where it is corrupt, reform it.
Where it is in error, correct it.
Where it is right, defend it.
Where it is in want, provide for it.
Where it is divided, reunite it;
for the sake of your Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ.