SEATTLE – Claudia Gonzalez and her family traveled from North Bend to join their bishops and fellow Catholics in the October 4 Prayer of Repentance and Healing at St. James Cathedral.
“We are here because something big is happening. We can just not ignore it,” Gonzalez said of the clergy sex-abuse crisis.
Gonzalez, her husband Refugio Escobar, their 8-year-old son, Dante, and her mother, Juanita Gonzalez, were among an estimated 250 people who attended the service.
“It’s so true that we might have anger and we may feel sad, but we don’t want to lose that faith in God,” said Gonzalez, who attends St. Brendan Parish in Bothell and Our Lady of Sorrows Parish in Snoqualmie. “I want my kids to grow in the faith,” added Gonzalez, who is expecting a daughter in January.
The prayer service began with the tolling of a bell, then Archbishop J. Peter Sartain and Auxiliary Bishops Eusebio Elizondo and Daniel Mueggenborg knelt before the altar and prayed the Confiteor together.
That action was “an act of abandonment and surrender” to God, Archbishop Sartain explained in his homily, an echo of the three men’s lying prostrate before the altar when they were ordained deacons, then priests, then bishops.
“We needed to proclaim publicly to God, and to you, that we know we are sinners, unworthy servants of the God of love, in need of constant forgiveness for the sins we commit, whatever their nature and number,” the archbishop said.
“We are especially contrite and saddened because some of God’s beloved entrusted to our care were abused by the very ministers of God, bishops and priests and others, who should have been protecting them,” the archbishop said. “We are deeply sorry, because we love God, and we love you, with all our heart.”
After the first Scripture reading, six Catholic mothers read a series of contemporary laments, interspersed with a cantor singing Psalm 77, an ancient biblical lament.
“We feel concern, anger, disgust, confusion, disappointment, sadness, embarrassment, and great anguish,” the first lament read. “We grieve that the Church no longer feels like your refuge.”
Six Catholic mothers read a series of contemporary laments during the Prayer of Repentance and Healing service October 4 at St. James Cathedral. Photo: Stephen Brashear
The contemporary laments also expressed compassion and prayers for all victims of abuse; issued a call for repentance by the abusers and those in authority who moved them around or looked the other way; and petitioned God to give Catholics strength and courage at this time, help protect the vulnerable and purify and heal the church.
“In the end, two things will get us through this: turning to Christ for healing, solace, and comfort; and taking action to correct the broken systems that have led to this crisis,” the final lament read. (See sidebar for the full text of the laments.)
By praying such honest prayers, Archbishop Sartain said, “we become receptive to the voice of God.” The laments, both those in the Bible and those spoken at the cathedral service, also proclaim hope in God, he said.
“And so tonight, pouring out our hearts to God, we listen and pray with hope and resolve to work along with him, and side-by-side with each other, to rebuild his church,” the archbishop said. “God will show us how to restore trust, how he desires to heal and protect his precious little ones. God will affirm his call that we never stop proclaiming the Gospel who is Jesus, his beloved Son and our Savior.”
Those attending the service came for a variety of reasons.
“Penance, I think, is such an integral part of the Christian life, not just for ourselves, [but] that we can offer penance for others,” said Dominican Father Mark Francis Manzano, assistant director of the Catholic Newman Center at the University of Washington.
“It’s important for me to give our strength to the people and they know we are with them,” Juanita Gonzalez said. “Sometimes I feel so angry inside of me,” she said, but she prays, “God, take that from my heart.”
Refugio Escobar said a lot of people don’t think it makes sense to go to church now because terrible things may be happening. “This is what I’m praying [for] right now, because we don’t want people to have to fear to come to church,” he said.
Anne, a member of Seattle’s St. Alphonsus Parish who didn’t want her last name used, said she was attending to support the archdiocese and its efforts. “It makes you sad. It makes you angry,” she said of the abuse revelations. “You can never take away that that happened.”
Before the service began, Bishop Mueggenborg spoke to and accepted a manila envelope from two representatives of the local chapter of SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) who were standing outside the cathedral’s main entrance.
The prayer service also marked the first day of an archdiocesan Novena of Prayer to Mary, Mother of the Church, to ask her intercession for the church. The novena will end at Masses the weekend of October 13–14.
The contemporary laments
The following is the text of the contemporary laments from the archdiocese’s October 4 prayer service of repentance and healing in the wake of the clergy abuse crisis:
“I cry aloud to God, that God may hear me.”
God of all the ages,
this is not an easy time to be Catholic.
We feel concern, anger, disgust, confusion, disappointment,
sadness, embarrassment, and great anguish.
We grieve that the Church no longer feels like your refuge,
your house in this world and in heaven consecrated to be holy.
Some of our friends and family who are not Catholic
ask why we remain.
But we do remain because of our trust in you.
Lord God, give us strength and courage
to continue living and spreading the gospel of your Son at this difficult time.
“I pondered, and my spirit questioned.”
As a mother, my greatest desire is to have my children know
they are loved forever by you, my God;
To know your Son Jesus Christ and follow him as a disciple;
and to be part of the beautiful community of the Spirit
that I know as the Catholic Church.
But when some pastors and shepherds violate trust in such an egregious way,
children are harmed not only in their bodies but also in their faith in You.
There are truly no words for my anger.
I feel deep compassion for victims and survivors of abuse, wherever it took place.
Some of them have been victimized twice:
first, by their abusers,
and then by efforts to silence them and cover up the darkness.
How could some in positions of power simply look the other way
or move abusers around, and not protect the vulnerable?
Light the way with your wisdom, my God.
“Will the Lord reject us forever?”
We dread that what we have heard is not the end,
That more is yet to be revealed.
But we cannot be light in this world if we harbor hidden darkness.
God of truth, let the truth emerge,
that we may tend to the wounds and let your healing begin.
May there be repentance on the part of those who have sinned,
healing for victims and their families,
and your grace working mightily in the Church
to protect and care for the young, the vulnerable, and the marginalized.
Let there be an end to clericalism and any system that reinforces the abuse of power.
Let us all have a role in your grace of healing.
Let the voices of laywomen and laymen
be heard at every level of Church leadership.
“I remember your wonders of old.”
The image I hold onto in prayer is Jesus clearing the temple.
He makes a whip out of cords; he scatters coins and overturns tables.
“Get these out of here!” he cries.
Lord, you washed temples clean, you purified hearts,
you set people back on the right path.
The psalmist said: “Cleanse me with hyssop, that I may be pure;
Wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.”
As I remember your wonders of old,
I also remember Jesus washing the feet of the apostles,
teaching them to do the same for others.
Show us how protect the vulnerable
and to ensure that no abuser is protected, no victim ignored.
Purify your Church, and purify each of us,
that we may walk in your ways full of hope and trust in you.
God of pure love,
we look to you to cleanse and restore all that has been lost.
“Your ways, O God, are holy.”
God of love,
it is my faith in you that sustains me.
I pray for peace and healing for all the victims;
I pray that they will continue to know and believe in you,
our loving and merciful God.
I want my children to have a future in your Church.
I want the Church to be a source of comfort and inspiration,
a place to grow their relationship with God
a place where they can serve others.
I want them to find strength, comfort, and connection through the sacraments.
that the Eucharist will give them clarity in a shattered world.
I am so grateful each Sunday
to look around me and see my brothers and sisters lined up beside me.
It is absolute beauty.
I teach my children that this is their Church, as much as it is anyone else’s,
that they belong here and no one can take that away from them.
That is why we continue to show up,
knowing that we are part of something much bigger than ourselves,
bigger than any given moment in history.
“You guided your people like a flock.”
This is a dark and confusing time in your Church, Lord,
In the end, two things will get us through this:
turning to Christ for healing, solace, and comfort;
and taking action to correct the broken systems that have led to this crisis.
I pray that the grace in the Eucharist will heal us,
that it will connect our Church and make us stronger.
I pray that from this suffering and anguish
a more authentic Church will rise.
I pray that the Church, all of us, will realize that this IS our moment.
If we can find a way to reveal, heal, and move forward with justice and mercy,
the Church can be a model of light for our broken world.