Sexual abuse of minors is always detestable. When inflicted by a father or father figure — such as a priest — it is particularly heinous.
At their early age, children are just learning to discriminate between good and evil. They cannot understand realities so complex as that of a person who represents goodness and God and at the same time acts in a horrible way.
Victims sometimes resolve the confusion that follows this type of sexual abuse by completely suppressing the event in their memories although the trauma remains and will affect their lives forever. In many instances, survivors will tragically blame themselves for the abuse.
But shame is not the only scar of the abuse. Too often when survivors of sexual abuse decide to expose the horror they experienced, they feel re-victimized by the community at large, many of whom cannot bear to think that a man who served as a loving father figure for the community could, in fact, be a child molester.
Yet, sadly, in many cases the allegations were true.
Deprived of the innocence that was their right, many victims of abuse have fallen into paths of self-destruction. Many have become drug abusers, drawing them into a life of crime and sometimes incarceration. Others, confused in their sexuality, have followed homosexual patterns of behavior. Several, unable to confront the pain, loneliness, shame and societal rejection, have even taken their own lives.
Sexual abuse of minors is a terrible issue that affects all segments of society. Ninety percent of all sexual abuse occurs within the family: at the hands of parents, stepparents and close relatives. But as terrible as that is for our society, it does not diminish the responsibility the Church has to root out the problem within its own ranks.
While the slow response of the bishops to the problem was regrettable, at least we can now say that the culture that tended to protect priests more than children has been exposed. However, vigilance will always be necessary so as not to fall into that same trap.
Cardinal O’Malley has done the right thing by calling for a novena of prayer and repentance. Ending with a procession from the chancery grounds to St. Columbkille Parish in Brighton June 3 at 6:30 p.m., the novena is a step in the right direction as we try to heal from the scandal the sexual abuse of children has caused.
Still today, as expressed by a survivor the first night of the novena at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross May 25, they wish that their pain be understood by the Catholic community, a community that, understandably, many left. Their stories must be heard by all of us to realize that it should never again be tolerated. We must not forget that those abused are our brothers and sisters, much as those who abused them are our brothers and sisters.
We encourage our readers to be part of this cry for repentance by — if at all possible — participating in the novena’s closing procession. At the very least, we can all recite the novena prayer to the Holy Spirit, seeking God’s forgiveness and His wisdom.
Divine Spirit of light and love,
we consecrate our minds and hearts and wills
to you today and for all eternity.
The Church of Boston has been broken by sin and scandal.
Shameful acts have harmed innocent children,
betrayed a sacred trust and offended you, our God.
Accept this act of homage in reparation for those offenses.
We beg you:
Holy Spirit — send the fire of your purifying love.
Holy Spirit — water our dryness with your rivers of new life.
Holy Spirit — breathe on us the sweet refreshment of your mercy.
Holy Spirit — restore hope and faith that we may be one in you.
May our whole lives faithfully imitate the life and virtues of Christ our Lord.
To the Father, through Christ, in you, Holy Spirit, be honor and glory forever.