Catholic leaders are praying for survivors in the wake of Cardinal George Pell’s conviction for historical sexual abuse, but also seeking to support their local communities.
Since the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference issued a statement from its president, Archbishop Mark Coleridge, a number of bishops have written letters to their communities, acknowledging the ongoing legal process via an appeal, but also the range of emotions people are feeling.
Writing to the people of the Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn, Archbishop Christopher Prowse yesterday said “we find in our hearts so many emotions and confusions.”
“We hold deeply in our hearts all survivors of sex abuse and their families. We pledge to do all we can to stand alongside them in prayerful, transparent vigilance,” he wrote.
“Be assured of and comforted by my prayers and thoughts for you, my dear people, in this fragile time. Please find strength in your care for each other.
“Together, let us turn as always to the Lord Jesus and our Mother Mary, during our Masses and our prayers to guard and guide us in this ‘vale of tears’.
“Please pray also for our priests, deacons and seminarians. They who seek to serve you with great pastoral care are in need of their own care in these days.”
Port Pirie Bishop Greg O’Kelly, who is also currently Apostolic Administrator of Adelaide, said “to do whatever we can to help victims and to purify the Church must be a prime response.”
Bishop O’Kelly conceded the current climate is also “particularly difficult” for Catholics and those engaged in Catholic institutions.
“They can be subjected to words or looks which express puzzlement that anyone would want to be associated with such a Church,” he wrote.
“Apart from a prime consideration being action on behalf of victims, we must make a serious effort to pray for the Church that the Body of Christ not be wounded in the future by the sins of those vowed to paths of holiness.”
In Broken Bay, Diocesan Administrator Fr David Ranson wrote “we hold in our hearts all who are so deeply affected, in so many ways, by the crime of abuse in all its different manifestations and dimensions.”
Fr Ranson acknowledged that for many lay Catholics, religious and clergy, it can be “shameful” when absorbing “the constant analysis, the critique and the commentary about our Church, and the declarations of its failures and inadequacies.”
“It forces us to address the question, ‘Why would we wish to be identified with an institution condemned with such widespread disdain?’ We cannot avoid this question.
“This is the crossroad to which moments such as this bring us,” Fr Ranson continued.
“We must answer the inevitable question put to us by the sad circumstances of this week with humility, integrity and courage, such that a new sense of purpose might motivate and guide us into the future, not with stoic resignation, but with genuine Christian hope. In this way, this dreadful moment in the life of our Church in Australia can act to purify and clarify our discipleship.”
Catholic Health Australia’s Suzanne Greenwood sought to thank and encourage those working in that sector in the organisation’s electronic newsletter.
“The work of Catholic hospitals and community and aged care is among the greatest contributions the Church makes to our country,” she said.
“In this time of crisis and high emotion, your work is valued as highly as ever and you should be proud of all you do to support our shared mission.”
With thanks to the ACBC.