Bishop: All Should Repent for Sex Scandal

By Kathy Ehrich
The Patriot Ledger [Milton MA]
Downloaded March 27, 2003

MILTON - Bishop Richard G. Lennon asked Catholics at last night's prayer service at St. Elizabeth's Church to repent as a community for the Boston Archdiocese's priest sex scandal.

"We need as a people to ask for repentance and sorrow for what happened so we may experience healing within the household of faith," Bishop Lennon said.

"We need our focus to be on the victims of sexual misconduct for what they have suffered, not only in the terrible behavior (of priests) but also in the betrayal of trust they could legitimately expect from those that caused harm."

Many Voice of the Faithful members who attended the service said Bishop Lennon's words did little to soothe the victims and parishioners who have been scarred by the widespread abuse and subsequent coverup by the church hierarchy.

Ruth Moore of Hull, one of about 50 Voice of the Faithful members at the service, turned her back to the bishop to protest what she perceives as his lack of support for the victims.

"I didn't commit any crimes and sins, but yet he asked all of us to be repentant," she said. "I thought it was a very soft way of addressing the intense pain of the victims."

Voice of the Faithful members donned purple ribbons and sashes and sat at the front of the church during Bishop Lennon's service. The group was formed in response to the church scandal.

Last night's event was the third in a series of five healing services held throughout the archdiocese to address the scandal. Bishop Lennon, who has been serving as interim administrator of the archdiocese since the resignation of Cardinal Bernard Law in December, also met with about 100 priests who gathered at St. Elizabeth's before the service.

Bishop Lennon, who served his first assignment as a priest at St. Mary's in Scituate, rejected many of the formalities of a traditional service last night. Instead of proceeding from the back of the church to the altar, he instead entered through a side door and sat in a plain wooden chair set up in front of the congregation.

He personally thanked any victims at the service for attending.

Barbara Thorpe, the archdiocese's director of the Office of Healing and Assistance Ministry, thanked victims for coming forward and shining a light on the scandal.

"The courage of the victim survivors and their families to bring the out the truth is a gift of love to the church," said Thorpe, who has counseled many clergy sexual abuse victims. "While it's searingly painful, (the truth) sets us free."

After the service, Voice of the Faithful members held purple glow sticks they said symbolized their solidarity with the victims of sexual abuse by priests.

Several Voice of the Faithful members said they attended the service in part to protest Bishop Lennon's failure to allow all Faithful members to meet inside their home churches.

Ben Murphy heads the Voice of the Faithful in Duxbury and said his 100-plus members meet in the local senior center because the pastor of Holy Family Church refuses to let the group meet inside.

"I'm attending to protest our banning and to show that we have some gumption," said Murphy, who was joined by several other members from Duxbury. "It really seems like an un-Christian-like attitude. We paid for these churches and now we're not allowed to use them."

Bishop Lennon did not address the Voice of the Faithful members during the service.

Kathy Ehrich may be reached at


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