In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit – Amen.
Father, I had hoped that this would be a prayer of celebration, as it was 30 years ago this week that I accepted You into my heart and made the transition from churchgoer to Christian, during my first of four years at a youth camp sponsored by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Antigonish. You have made such a profound impact on my life since that time and I can’t imagine living without You.
However, my heart is troubled as I write these words. Word has arisen of a class-action lawsuit by alleged sexual abuse victims within the Halifax-Yarmouth Archdiocese, and the past two weeks have revealed a troubling seven-decade cycle of horror within the Catholic Church’s Pennsylvania parishes. Last week, a pastor at Winnipeg Centre Vineyard Church went to court for charges of attempting to meet a minor for a sexual act, after posing as a 15-year-old girl on-line and setting up a meeting with a young man in California.
So, as always, as I attempt to separate the sins of the few from Your almighty presence and Your Son’s love, kindness and wisdom, I turn to You with the problems that burden my soul in these troubled times.
And so, I pray.
First, a prayer of thanks. I thank You for allowing me to come to You, and stay with You, within the Roman Catholic Church. I thank You for the baptism that my parents and Godparents oversaw when I was new to this world. I thank You for the opportunity to choose to renew these vows as a young man through the sacrament of Confirmation. And I thank You for giving me the chance to embrace Your gospel, every day, in every way, inside and outside of a church building – a freedom not present in every part of the world.
I thank You for the Eucharist, which invites me to accept the body and blood of the Saviour who gave His life for the salvation of the world and everyone in it. And I thank You for the stability and consistency to be found in our regular Mass gatherings and special services throughout the year.
I thank You for the priests and pastors I have been lucky enough to get to know over my nearly-46 years of life. I pray for all priests and pastors around the world. This includes the small minority of those who have committed such horrific atrocities against our most vulnerable people, and millions of others that are unfairly tarred with the same brush and bear the brunt of this stereotype every day of their lives.
I thank You that the Diocese of Antigonish has spent the past decade addressing abuse claims dating back to 1950 and implemented a new protocol to ensure that no child will ever be left alone and/or in a potentially compromising position with an adult volunteer – priest or otherwise.
I thank You that my own parish was conscientious enough to refuse my personal offers to volunteer with youth ministry until I finished my police background checks, and I thank you for the wonderful opportunities to serve in youth and young-adult ministries that have arisen since this paperwork was successfully completed.
I pray for all victims of sexual abuse, regardless of whether it occurred in a church setting or at the hands of a church leader. I pray that they all receive the opportunity to share the harsh truth, right the grievous wrongs committed against them and others, and feel the healing they so desperately need and deserve.
I pray for all those who don’t understand how I – or anyone – can still be a member of a Catholic parish, or any Christian church, given the offenses that have occurred, here at home or around the world. I pray that they would recognize that finding faith in You within a church community is still possible even as we simultaneously condemn past or present offences of a global church organization.
I pray that it becomes crystal-clear in the days, weeks and months to come that the Bible is full of condemnations of sexual perversion and threats against children. Your own Son insisted that, in the case of anyone who would hurt a child, “it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matthew 18:6).
I pray for Pope Francis and all others attempting to break this cycle within the Catholic Church. And I pray that I can contribute to this worldwide healing in even a small way.
I pray all these things as your humble, broken servant, in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.