Pope’s March prayer intention says it all, yet don’t expect any changes anytime soon.
Every month the Pope makes a special prayer intention that he encourages the universal Church to pray for in a special way. This month’s intention is For The Victims of Abuse. Given the Church’s great concern for the victims of sexual abuse, one might be tempted to narrow the scope of the Pope’s intention to those who have been abused sexually. However, nowhere in the Vatican’s release of this month’s prayer intention from the Pope, is the word ‘sexual’ used.
In his video-message announcing his prayer intention for March 2023, Pope Francis states that “in response to cases of abuse, especially those committed by members of the Church (Bishops, Pastors, Judicial Vicars, Church personnel), it is not enough to ask forgiveness.” Sadly, the Pope is unaware (not because we have not tried to inform him) of the large number of victimized people here in Southwest Florida. Yes, the Pope’s monthly prayer intention applies to us, and no one from the church that has abused us will ever even come close to asking us for forgiveness.
In the Pope’s message, he insists that victims must be the protagonists of a response to abuse, saying that “their pain and psychological wounds can begin to heal if they find answers – if there are concrete actions to repair the horrors they have suffered and to prevent them from happening again.” In October there will be seven years of “inaction,” seven years when the pleas to be listened to were ignored, seven years of disenfranchisement when parishioners who built the parish were told they were no longer wanted. A general dismantling of everything that was once familiar – the pastor, the woman’s guild, the music, the atmosphere of “welcome” – made what was once a vibrant parish into just an empty church. The feeling of loss was overwhelming, and that feeling sent hundreds to other places seeking the acceptance they could not, and still cannot, find at St. Isabel. All of the changes, crafted as they were by a narcissistic autocrat and his sycophants, brought no healing, and the pain of so many remains irritatingly strong today.
Pope Francis insists, that “the Church cannot hide abuse, no matter where it occurs,” and he goes on to say that the Church “must serve as a model in its response to abuse – including by shining a light on the issue of abuse in society and in families,” and most importantly I might add, in parishes. Sadly, the church in Southwest Florida has been anything but a model. Indeed, it is the abuser! It has inflicted pain and hardship on Fr. Christopher and hundreds of other parishioners, and its response to our cries has not been the “safe spaces for victims to be heard, supported psychologically, and protected,” as Pope Francis has recommended. Rather, the local diocese and Rome have their hands firmly cupped over their ears for they do not want to listen.
Read Pope Francis’ specific prayer intention and see if it touches your heart and soul.
“Let us pray for those who have suffered because of the
wrongs done to them by members of the Church. May
they find within the Church herself a concrete response
to their pain and suffering.”
The “abuses of power” are what is turning people away from the church today, and under that heading are not just molester priests and unthinking bishops who kept some of those priests in active service. Under the same heading are hundreds of disenfranchised former parishioners who have been genuinely abused by the absolute power held by bishops, in our case one bishop, Bishop Frank Dewane. May they some day find a genuine “response to their pain and suffering.” Abuse is abuse, is abuse, no matter what the form!