Day of Prayer Would Have Aided Healing, Priest-Psychologist Says

By Patricia Rice
Post-Dispatch [St. Louis M0]
May 3, 2003

U.S. Catholic dioceses were to set day in wake of abuse scandal, but few did

American Catholics missed an opportunity for healing and renewal by not having a national day of prayer and fasting in response to the abuse by some priests of minors, said a priest psychologist here this weekend.

Such a day of penance may have helped purify Catholic dioceses in this country, said the Rev. Benedict J. Groeschel, a Franciscan friar and director of the New York Archdiocese's Spiritual Development office. He is the author of many books, including "From Scandal to Hope," which was published last year. Milwaukee Archbishop Timothy Dolan, a native of St. Louis, wrote the introduction to that book.

Groeschel spoke at the two-day National Association of Diaconate Directors' annual convention here which concluded Saturday. The association represents a majority of the 13,000 permanent ordained Catholic deacons in the United States.

Priests who abused people and the bishops who reassigned them were not the only ones who bear responsibility for the scandal, he said. Most Catholic priests and lay persons may not have known about sexual abuse of minors but many looked the other way at wider moral laxity among church members, he said. Many accepted watered-down, secularized ideas about moral issues, he said.

"If you tell the people the pope is too strict (on birth control), then where do you stop?" he asked a room full of married, ordained Catholic deacons from across the nation at the Crown Plaza in Bridgeton on Friday.

One exception leads to another, he said. That's especially true in a cultural climate where moral relativism, humanistic and sometimes pagan theories thrive, he said. Eventually some Catholics, priests and bishops found excuses to avoid obeying the pastoral authority of the church, he said.

Since the 1960s, the Catholic Church in the English-speaking world tried to be as "nice" as it could. Too often some Catholics absolved their sins by psychology rather than by the blood of Christ, he said.

American bishops approved the idea of a national day of fasting, prayer and repentance for all Catholics last June at the U.S. Conference of Catholics bishops meeting in Dallas. However, the bishops could not agree on the suggested day, August 14. Instead, each was to lead a day of each diocese's choosing. Few dioceses held a fast day.

Groeschel said that he hopes the scandal will be reason for Catholics to find renewal in daily interior prayer and public devotion to the Eucharist.

Since the Second Vatican Council in the early 1960s, many bishops have become bureaucrats, CEOs, who don't focus on their pastoral roles, he said.

"I hope this humiliation of clergy will get the bishops out of (the idea) that they are CEOs," he said. "A good shepherd does not run away from the wolf. He stands and fights back."

Reporter Patricia Rice:
Phone: 314-340-8221


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