Each month, the Pope sets before the People of God a special intention for the worldwide Church to bring to prayer. This month he asks that we pray for victims of abuse: We pray for those who have suffered harm from members of the Church; may they find within the Church herself a concrete response to their pain and suffering. You can find all the Pope’s Prayer Intentions for 2023 by following this link: https://vaticanprayerrequest.com/pope_prayer_intentions_2023.
This expanded prayer may help us enter into a compassionate response even more fully:
You embraced the cross and transformed it from a symbol of humanity’s inhumanity into a sign of love and redemption.
We meet your Suffering Body, today,
in all who are victims of oppression and cruelty.
We meet your Risen Body, today,
in all who, despite all their pain, survive, heal, grow, and transform their anger into love.
Help your Church grow in integrity and humility.
Help us be transparent about our need for conversion and repent of our sinfulness.
Give us the courage to always choose to protect the People of God over the institution.
Let us not hide behind legal structures that further victimize those who have already experienced unspeakable harm within the walls of the Church.
Guide us to choose
… love of neighbour over love of security.
… compassion over self-protection.
… integrity over collusion.
… bravery over fear,
… honesty over obfuscation.
Give us, Lord Jesus, the wisdom of your Holy Spirit, that we might grow in holiness as a Christian community, more brightly reflecting your light to the world.
Authentic prayer finds expression in action. It must never be a replacement for doing what we can to make real that for which we pray. Because the Pope’s prayer is for the Church to find a “concrete response, ” let us seek ways to learn about the stories of people who have been harmed by the church, to think about the structures that enable abuse, and to work tirelessly for change.
The summary reports of the Synod on Synodality led by Pope Francis shows that all over the world, the laity are realizing that the protection of vulnerable people cannot be left only to the hierarchy. All the People of God must work for a healthier church structure where people are safe and loved. In Canada, one such group is Concerned Lay Catholics. This group originated as a small group of lay folk standing in solidarity with one victim of clerical sexual abuse. It has since expanded to become a community which works for a healthier church by “affirm[ing] the laity’s role of co-responsibility in the Church.” Each First Friday, CLC hosts an hour and a half of prayer and companionship with survivors of abuse. Their website is https://concernedlaycatholics.ca.
Christine Way Skinner has been a pastoral minister for thirty years and has recently begun a doctoral program in theology at St. Michael’s College. Together with her husband, Michael, she has parented six wonderful children. She has written a number of books for Novalis on living the Catholic faith for both adults and children.