I’m in. I don’t know what it will be yet. But I’m in.
Take a look at this entry at The Deacon’s Bench. It was a proposal by a Deacon Charles Rohrbacher. He is suggesting that while bishops say they are sorry right and left about the clerical sexual abuse of children, and their own role in that abuse, people are not entirely impressed or convinced.
The deacon has a suggestion.
Here is an excerpt, but I suggest that you read the whole piece. I am adding a little emphases and a comment.
One repeated criticism of them has been that even in their apologies, they have resembled corporate executives rather than pastors. In a real sense, they have not yet responded, either as a body or as individual bishops in a Catholic enough way. All the more remarkable because of our rich tradition of public penance and outward signs of repentance and contrition, but unfortunately, to date, very few of our bishops have entered the public practice of our Catholic penitential tradition.
The Holy Father in the past couple of days has called us as a Church to penance, which is good and appropriate up to a point (because we are all part of the Body of Christ) but misdirected, I think, because the faithful were not responsible for the decisions that caused so much harm to victims and scandal. It is the bishops themselves who need to seek God’s forgiveness and the forgiveness of those who were harmed because of their failure to protect the most vulnerable members of their flock from abusive priests and to implore God’s mercy on behalf those clerics who molested children and young people (most of whom are unrepentant and evade all responsibility for their crimes).
So here is my question for you. What if our bishops chose to do public penance? What if they lay prostrate or knelt in front of their cathedrals as penitents before each Mass on the weekend closest to the feast of St.Peter and Paul or on the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus or some other appropriate day or days? Or, even better, on the first Friday of every month for the next year starting with the feast of the Sacred Heart or Sts.Peter and Paul? And what if we, as their deacons, as an order in the Church, in all humility, not only called on our bishops to do public penance, but offered to join them in it? [OORAH!]
As deacons we invite God’s holy people to pray for mercy in the Penitential Rite. As deacons we call God’s priestly people to pray for the needs of the Church and world at every Mass. As deacons on Good Friday, it is our part to invite our bishop and priests and all the faithful to kneel in prayer.
Just as I think it is our part to call our bishops to do public penance, I think it is also our part to join them in penance as well. Clearly, our place is with our bishops: we stand at the side of our bishop during every celebration of the liturgy and the sacraments, ready to assist them.
I’m in. I will figure out some penance to do on a regular basis. The whole Church needs to do penance publicly.
Bishops and deacons and priests who never committed any of those horrid crimes need to do penance as well. We need to do this as a body.
Perhaps we can bring this to another level.
I think this is on the right track. Along with my own proposal of a true renewal of our worship, this should be another component.
Finally, a suggestion that doesn’t ring hollow! This is something I can get on board with.
What about utilizing the practice of commutation? The Irish bishops should be already familiar with it. They could send their pecuniary substitution to parishioners in little personalized envelopes.
Remember when Archbishop Weakland made his public penitential scene? Say what you will about the bastard, he knew how to throw a spectacle.
If only Pope Benedict read Dn. Charles’ blog or your blog, Father, then perhaps we might see this happen throughout the Roman Church.
Great idea. Since the diocese of Fresno, Ca. is facing yet another law suit regarding abuse and the shuffeling of a priest, I will forward this to the “pastoral” center in Fresno, only to have them hit the delete key.
RE Stephen Hand — The Archbp Weakland spectacle is why this public penance cannot simply be the clergy — it must include the laity or not be done at all. It would simply be seen as an insincere spectacle.
There is also the problem that public sees the abuse as a problem of the celebate clergy and having only the clergy do penance would place right into the hands of the false narrative.
The laity MUST be involved in this for they are preceived as innocent and only be the innocent doing penance for the sake of the wronged can the narrative be changed from “punish the guilty Church” to “the Church seeking to heal the wounded”.
I am all for this act of penance and especially done as a whole Church.
@Stephen Hand: While we may not agree with the Archbishop, nor support his ideas and proposals, I take great umbrage to your reference to His Excellency as “the bastard” and the Church herself condemns such outrage. His Excellency is a Successor to the Apostles, even if he’s doing it wrong.
As for public penance, as a layman, I’m all for it. And I’ll join the deacons, joining the priests, joining the bishops.
I would be happy to participate in some way in any public penance that my Archbishop or priests chose to do.
Count me in
Great suggestion. I’m willing.
Me too. Best idea I’ve heard in a long, long time.
I don’t think it is a good idea to require this unless we go back to public penance for everyone.
It would be nice if the Bishops on their own said they wanted prayer and fasting for the victims one Friday a month and an invitation to join him.
I do get disgusted with the so called apology letters from the Bishops because, at least here, they are standard and you know where to insert case/name etc.
They lack sincerity and are too formal.
Great, but…I think people want to see certain bishops REMOVED completely, and structural reforms enacted to deconstruct the clericalism that led to the cover-ups in the first place. A big show is one thing, but I read another article recently explaining how the public is angry at CRIMES whereas the Pope and bishops keep seeing this through the lens of sin. Which is one aspect, to be sure, but the public doesn’t really care about the bishops or priests saving their souls our their personal ascesis; they want to see temporal consequences. I doubt any public penance would affect them as much as getting fired and having to rearrange their whole life, unless they got crucified like in the Philippines.
I’m a layman, but I’d join in…and I’m ashamed to admit I don’t know how to do penance other than spend time in prayer, fast from chocolate, or give pentential offerings. Is that how it’s done?
Sounds good, but can the innocent really do penance on behalf of the guilty? I recall in confession mentioning someone else who was also involved in the sin to provide the context, and then I corrected myself by saying, “I guess I can’t confess other people’s sins. The priest just laughed and said, “Well you can, but it doesn’t count.” Seems its the same here. If we do penance, it may seem like we are taking ownership the crimes, but what we are really doing is “disavowing the identity” as James Bowman put it. Now, I happen to think it is good thing to do. It just ain’t penance.
Oneros: I think people want to see certain bishops REMOVED completely
Amen. I know of an example of a priest who committed such abuses decades ago, then apparently quit and lived an exemplary priestly life for a significant number of years. But recently he was suddenly exposed by a former victim, and within 24 hours had been removed from ministry for life.
Is not similar accountability of bishops needed, in addition to sackcloth and ashes?
Even salutory proposals like the one at hand here seem (at least to some) to say that we are all guilty, so all should do penance.
But we are not all guilty. Those who are guilty should be punished, while perhaps we can all offer reparation.
I’m not sure how yet, but I will do something penitential.
Let them name it and I will join in if possible.
Perhaps members of the Church as a whole could do penance, but I worry that this needs to be explained theologically to prevent confusion.
1st – When we do penance together as a Church do we do penance for each others sins or our own? I know we can offer sacrifices for the living and offer prayers of reparation, but can we “do penance” for the sins of those who are still alive?
2nd – The Body of Christ is the “communion of saints” not the communion of sinners, although sinners are among her members on earth. We can pray and intercede for each other and share in each others merits, but we must make it clear that we do not “share” or communicate in each others sins. My concern is to uphold the fact that the Church is divine and thus cannot sin. We must be sure not to attribute sins of her members to the Church.
3rd – Are we merely adopting the anti-Catholic world’s standard in raising this issue to the forefront as the worst sin? Objectively, the situation is evil. But, can we judge subjective culpability? Moreover, what about bishops who in good faith saw the offender as a repentant son? Should we assign malicious intent to all bishops? Is imprudence -and some of it apparently crass- a sin?
4th – If we have public penance for this, we must not neglect to do so for other grave offenses such as apostasy, adultery, sodomy, and abortion. Otherwise, in people’s minds those things will seem as nothing.
Am not convinced about the good of this. Not every bishop was responsible for the problems. Some current bishops are no more responsible for what happened than I am, a layman. We must not fall prey to thinking that collective guilt and punishment is legitimate.
To my mind, the biggest problem with the John Jay study is that it examined abusive members of the clergy but paid no attention to the bishops who endangered their flock. We all know about Cardinals Law and Mahony who shunted priests from assignment to assignment, but there were countless others. Far better than collective punishment would be for the USCCB to commission a study that will point fingers at USCCB members and have every bishop who assigned priests against the advice of psychiatrists or broke the law submit his resignation to the Holy Father and spend the rest of his life in secluded punishment.
For Catholics of the Byzantine liturgical tradition, as I have argued elsewhere in a different context, it makes perfect sense to make use of Forgiveness Vespers from Cheesefare Sunday night as a way of showing metanoia and seeking reconciliation.
I’m all for it, and think that it would be good for the Church, but we need to be pragmatic about the reactions of the general public, and even the Newchurch liberals, should the Church choose this line of action.
They, and other liberal, quasi-religious/political organizations that are antagonistic to the Church will seize upon it as an opportunity to grind our noses into the ground while we’re down there. And, it could be the entire Church, every man, woman and child, lay and ordained, participating and it still wouldn’t be enough.
Liberals, I’m convinced, suffer from a diagnosable, pathological mental defect that prevents them from accepting apologies or displays of humility and charity. They simply can’t be witness to anything remotely approaching contrition and out of a hardness of heart absolutely refuse to offer forgiveness to those who humbly ask for it.
O.K., I’m in for the idea, but pardon my cynicism, but absolutely nothing that we do or the Church directs will “impressed or convince” those who hate the Church, regardless of what she does.
Penance. I am all for it, and practice it regularly, and PRIVATELY.
With that said, I have no intention of supporting the idea that the faithful should be doing public penance for the sins of the Bishops (who did not implement the clear directives regarding the canonical process), and those Priests who disgraced their Orders by raping children. Better a millstone be put around their necks.
It’s one things, and entirely constructive for the Deacons to propose this for the Bishops, and offer to do so in union with them. It’s different for then the Bishops (who perpetuated this abuse) to then ask the faithful to join them publicly.
That’s not how it was done historically, and it’s not the responsibility of the lay people in this matter. In fact, the lay people were entirely removed from these crimes. They are clearly in the ecclesiastical province.
There are plenty of examples where BIshops wore sackcloth and hairshirts for years, rather than wearing their cassocks — plenty of examples of them giving up their pontifical regalia and privileges. It’s not the lay people who need to be doing this publicly.
Privately? Yes. Publicly – no.
“But we are not all guilty. Those who are guilty should be punished, while perhaps we can all offer reparation.”
Exactly! I worry that, in the end, this would only work to “diffuse” the guilt, as if it were everyone’s problem collectively, rather than specifically punishing those specific men involved who need to be specifically singled out. It could end up seeming like “general absolution” that avoids any INDIVIDUAL singling out of bishops and consequences for them. When was the last time the Rite of Degredation from Episcopal Orders was preformed??
I’m all for it.
I think it is neither necessary nor even wise for all bishops to do public penance. The sin is not a contagion nor is the guilt collective. Perhaps the best solution is that one prelate do public penance in the name of the Church. A prelate who is stained by actual guilt, lest he be seen as a mere scapegoat. A prelate whose hubris would be purged by such an act of public humiliation. A prelate who would demonstrate true contrition for his many sins of commission (loosing psychopathic pedophiles upon unsuspecting parishes) and omission (scorning the cries of pain of the sodomised children).
But could such metanoia ever soften the heart of Bernard Law, the archpriest of Santa Maria Maggiore? Nonne ille praelatus opprobrio Ecclesiae diu futurus est?
Here’s a practical suggestion: The entire Irish hierarchy could go to Lough Derg and undertake the penitential exercise known as “St Patrick’s Purgatory”. http://www.loughderg.org/
What a powerful sign this would be.
For those who doubt that penance by ‘the innocent’ is effective- Didn’t Christ (entirely innocent) offer the ultimate penance (suffered, died and was buried) in reparation for sinful man?
I think this is a good idea.I’d like to see the entire Church offer penance. Aren’t we all celebrating a Holy Hour for the sanctification of our priests once a month this year on the first Thursday of each month? Why not a year of public penance held once a month in each Catholic Church throughout the world?
And, seriously, do you really care what ‘haters’ think or say? Actions speak louder than words.
I grew up in the diocese that Deacon Rohrbacher serves. He has always impressed me as a good and holy man, and is also well known for his work in iconography.
I am all for mortification, self-denial and penance. It seems like these old-school ascetical practices are making a come back after Vatican II deemphasized them.
I think it’s a noble idea that will never get off the ground, or, in this case, ON the ground.
While I think it would be quite powerful to see Theodore Cardinal McCarrick, Roger Cardinal Mahony, Bernard Cardinal Law, Archbishop Rembert Weakland and all the archbishops, bishops, and priests of the U.S. prostrate in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, I think it would also be virtually impossible to get them to do it.
By the way, someone mentioned the Weakland “apology.” Even his “apology” was a narcissistic grandstanding that everyone could have well done without. Instead of performing an act of humiliation and penance, he drew undue attention to himself and continued to do so right up to the publishing of his memoirs and his latest comments about that priest in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.
I’m all for this idea. For those concerned about diffusing the guilt of certain individuals, remember that civil and canonical sanctions are always available. Deacon Rohrbacher’s proposal isn’t about individual guilt, however. It’s a reminder that while certain people damaged the Mystical Body, the rest of us have the ability to repair it.
Plus, as rakesvines suggests, an appreciation for penance wouldn’t hurt the modern Chuch. This terrible situation has already given us great child protection measures within the Church – would that it might encourage people to return to Confession.
I’m for it. I think the benefits and blessings of doing public penance will have great restorative value.
“He who welcomes the angel of penance . . . will not be ashamed when he sees the Saviour.”
It has long been Catholic practice to make reparation and do penance not only for our own personal sins but in a general sense. This is what many consecrated religious do! Our Lady, too, suffered and offered for the sins of others as she had no sin to atone for.
I am a little surprised of the comments that do not know what penance is. We cannot wait (obviously) on our shepherds to lead the way with this! Yes. public penance is fine but it would never be enough to appease those who want ‘blood’ from the Church. And the most guilty may well be the least likely to participate. It is indeed for the innocent to make atonement and pray for the conversions and healings of the others.
There are many ways to make sacrifices. Ever read “Story of a Soul”? Even as a girl St. Therese would offer little things and counted the sacrifices she made every day on beads.
There are many ways to do penance. One can get up early and go to daily Mass. Pray the rosary daily as a new practice if not already praying it. Skip a meal sometimes. Don’t eat between meals. Skip a favorite TV show. Go visit someone who is ill, especially a relative even if you do not like to visit them. Cut down computer time (!). All these can be penitential sacrifices. Don’t buy anything new for a period of time, and so–one can be inventive.
It does not have to be public or seen in any way by others. Just add some sacrifice to your daily life and offer it to God in reparation. To think that anything we do will win the approval of the ‘world’ just will not happen. The world is not ‘for us’. Our Lord told us this would be the case.
ps–I did not know that Abp. Weakland’s parents were not married…
Barefoot. In the snow. For several hours. With a hairshirt.
Followed by a year of emptying bedpans once a week as an orderly at the Catholic hospital.
I’m serious about both of those.
At the very least, a penitential pilgrimage to a holy place.
Lough Patrick is a good idea, too.
There’s nothing wrong with holding public processions of a penitential nature. What do you think folks are doing in Lent, when they go on Way of the Cross outdoor walks? What do you think folks in Cincinnati are doing, when they climb the long set of steps at St. Mary while saying the Rosary?
And of course you can offer stuff up for people who are still alive. Why wouldn’t you? What else do you think nuns and monks do all day????
And of course that the Pope already commanded this to the bishops of Ireland in his letter, and strongly recommended it for everybody else Catholic in the world. So it would be highly suitable and normal to offer up penitence together, for the good of the Church as a whole.
But yeah, I agree that there obviously needs to be clear teaching about what penance is and why we do it for others as well as ourselves. If Catholics aren’t real clear about this, who knows what the non-Catholics are thinking….?
As Lurker59 said above, It must be the whole church, not just our bishops & priests. Ours is the sin of omission;WE DIDN’T PRAY FOR THEM .
Here are some Scripture verses about public penance. I just did a search on “sackcloth” and there were pages and pages. This is just a sample.
13 Priests, put on sackcloth and lament! You ministers of the altar, wail! Come here, lie in sackcloth all night long, you ministers of my God! For the Temple of your God has been deprived of cereal offering and libation. 14 Order a fast, proclaim a solemn assembly; you elders, summon everybody in the country to the Temple of Yahweh your God. Cry out to Yahweh: 15 ‘Alas for the day! For the Day of Yahweh is near, coming as destruction from Shaddai.’ 16 Has not the food disappeared before our very eyes? Have not joy and gladness vanished from the Temple of our God?
1 On the twenty-fourth day of this month the Israelites, in sackcloth and with dust on their heads, assembled for a fast. 2 Then those of Israelite stock who had severed relations with all foreigners stood up and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their ancestors. 3 Standing, each man in his place, they read from the Book of the Law of Yahweh their God for one quarter of the day; for another quarter they confessed their sins and worshipped Yahweh their God.
5 And the people of Nineveh believed in God; they proclaimed a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least. 6 When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his robe, put on sackcloth and sat down in ashes.
3 ‘Alas for you, Chorazin! Alas for you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes.
By my baptismal priesthood and office of motherhood, I am most definitely and whole-heartedly *in*. We really can’t say,”Well, I’m not responsible!Just hang the bishops for it!” Our culpability stems from our membership in the Mystical Body. If one sins, it affects all. If one rejoices, all rejoice. If one does penance, all should join him. Members of the People of God have abused and members have been victimized. It affects us all. We are one in Christ.
I wonder what the laity could do. If our pastors would take the lead in a communal act of penance… if only our pastors would lead us.
I agree this is a fantastic idea. I think the Church should make it a day of penance that is at least “recognized” every year. In other words, set a date later this year for public penance by Church members (clergy and laity) outside their respective parish churches. Say, 12:15 local time (wherever you happen to be), priests and parishioners gather outside the Church, much like Easter vigil, and stand in silence while the priest and deacons lay prostrate. This would be followed by prayers led by the clergy, and the tolling of bells.
Following years would mark the event by parishes merely tolling the church bell at 12:15 on this particular day (whatever is decided) as a reminder of this sin. The Pope says we are a sinful, wounded Church. If the body is wounded, we all must share in this penance.
Perhaps in addition to a public act of penance (which we have no control over) we can start immediately on our own.
Thursday’s are the day we should pray for priests, so how about an act of personal penance? Nothing flashy just the same attitude as our Lenten sacrifices, that way it’s done in union with one another but is personalized to our individual weaknesses and helps us grow in Christ as well as continually bring to mind the reason behind the sacrifice, prompting us to prayer.
We need to do something. Sin in one part of the Body of Christ effects all the other members of the Body. This scandal is like a rot that has started in one hand. The whole body (infected or not) has to participate in the treatment to be healthy again…
Penance is a good thing, a necessary thing and with my whole heart shall join this initiative. We must offer up and pray. God bless you for spreading the word on this.
Fr Z, I totally concur and we had the same thought
What a wonderful way to promote the Sacrament of Penance…combining personal penances and a yearly Day of Penance. These could be offered as Spiritual Bouquets to the Holy Father.
A personal Spiritual Bouquet of penances, begun now, could be forwarded to the Holy Father via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A collective Spiritual Bouquet of different kinds of penances and the numbers of each kind of penance offered…whether prayer or other, with a beginning/ending date, and then forwarded to His Holiness. (Spiritual Bouquets of prayers that readily come to mind: the Marian Catechists offer Archb. Burke Spiritual Bouquets, the Fatima Apostolate requested a Million Prayers, the Society of Pius X requested a Million Rosaries, as did Fr. Gruner.)
If a collective Spiritual Bouquet of penances is formed, I would be happy to contribute.
Fantastic idea! I’ve linked to the article as well from my blog (www.frtimmoyle.blogspot.com). I’m also going to send it along to my Bishop.
Fr. Tim Moyle
Diocese of Pembroke
Doing penance as a Church sounds like a good idea! Perhaps we could take a day of every week (I vote for Friday, as it commemorates Good Friday) and do something penitential, such as not eating meat. Or does that sound too far-fetched?
Seriously, does it surprise anybody that the Church and society in general has been undergoing such trials and seeing such sins (abortion, sodomy, etc.) so soon after the notion of Friday penance was effectively cast to the wind? Sure, it is still a Canonical obligation, but how many Catholics actually know that and do something about it? 1%? 2%? Why are we constantly trying to re-invent the Church? Let’s go back to time-honored practices that are effective in combating the eternal enemy.
The Church has called for public penance in the past, BUT isn’t such penance always for each of us personally as individual sinners?
Sin is properly speaking a personal offense of an individual will against God’s law. Thus, penance whether done privately or peblically is a personal act. We don’t do public penance for the sins of others.
Now, we might make acts of reparation for “offenses against God” and for “conversion” of sinners as private devotion, but are these ever “penance” for the sins of others?
Doesn’t penance per se imply sorrow on the part of the offender?
Thus, acts or reparation would seem to be different. Acts of reparation seek to gain the grace for the sinner to be sorry.
Finally, the Church per se does not sin! Thus, we, even as members cannot perform penance for the Church. Public Penance could only be done by those directly involved.
Those not involed in the abuse could pray and make acts of reparation. But, let us becareful in focusing on the sins of others lest we forget our own.
Lurker, perhaps, but it should be an initiative of the bishops. The laypeople should be free to participate or not. Many will and that’s how it should be.
I can’t tell you the last time I ever saw a bishop kneel. Maybe on EWTN at a conclave? They don’t act like servants of anybody. They act like little tribal kings. IT’s time for this attitude to end.
And it might come off as “too little too late,” or like throwing the victims/press/onlookers a bone.
Seriously, some bishops should have been removed from office. I’m convinced that some of our bishops are the origin of half our problems in the church. Some of them have been very dissident and corrupt. These bishops I”m speaking of have resisted any and all directives from Rome, all the while neglecting the people in their dioceses.
That’s what needs to be fixed.
Prayer never hurts, on the contrary. But it can’t be seen as a price paid to get off the hook somehow. That’s not what prayer is.
I believe this is an idea that needs to be enacted. I will participate with my
Bishop, if he will do this.
Thank you, JosephMary, for your ideas for reparation and penances. Most who frequent this blog are so knowledgeable about our faith that it is intimidating to those of us who are not. I can use all the help I can get. Yes, I do read, but like the Little Flower..I don’t always understand.
Well, sure, self-humiliation sends the signal that you really are sorry, I guess. But I’d rather see some resignations.
I’m sure that somewhere there’s a good ritual for public penance. Not quite an auto de fe, but something similar. Perhaps along the lines of Henry II.
How about some Ember Days, sayyyyy twelve of them?
So …. none of the American bishops are turning themselves in for being an accessory to a felony, but they’ve “solved the problem” by ordering the fingerprinting of your Aunt Minnie who’s been teaching catechism for forty years without incident.
Count me among the COMPLETELY UNIMPRESSED!
For the person who asked “Can the innocent really do penance on behalf of the guilty?” I can only point the the nearest Crucifix.
However, I think this public penance is sound and timely activity given the severity of the problems and the times in which we live. I feel it should be extended to cover also the state of the country which we have permitted to go haywire. A little contrite humility might bring down enough grace to give us the Compass to find our way back HOME.
I think we should pass this to all we know … clergy and lay alike and exhort them to participate.
There’s one problem with this idea: What happens once the public penance ends, regardless of whether it involves the laity? Will a massive public penance result in less corruption in Rome (such as Sodano’s involvement with Maciel)? Will it teach bishops that they cannot ignore Canon Law at their whims? Will it create a system in which the laity can redress legitimate grievances without fear of retaliation, as some victims and their families experienced?
Ultimately, the Church must confront these issues if it to prevent or defuse further corruption, let alone move forward.
Ultimately, everything comes back to the question, “What does God want?” The Prophet Micah put it succinctly: “To do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God.” When the Church takes measures that reflect Micah’s words, then and only then will its credibility be restored.
Penance must go beyond itself and into genuine metanoia of heart and mind. Otherwise, it’s a waste of time.