A Papal-Ordered Penance – UPDATED

Joanne writes on the pope-ordered penance that accompanied the opening of the International Eucharistic Congress in Ireland:

. . . at the request of the Holy Father—the papal legate Cardinal Mark Ouellet spent last night in St Patrick’s Purgatory, fasting and keeping barefoot vigil in prayer for reconciliation and healing of the grievous wounds dealt by Ireland’s clergy abuse scandals. [...]

Of course, this gesture will be read by many (if not most) as one more cynical photo opp, one more attempt at damage control by a Church unimaginably bereft of credibility. Can anybody hear the Gospel from the Church anymore, through the fog of scandal? It’s enough to make me share Patrick’s despair.

But perhaps that’s the point—for me, and for all Catholics. In a profound way, we all participate in the abuse scandals as both victim and perpetrator, because the Body is one. In the anti-Catholic vitriol that fills the newspaper comment boxes, Christ is giving us a vision of hell. In our inability to make ourselves heard or believed as witnesses to Good News, we are forced into solidarity with the little ones whose witness to our sinfulness we so long ignored and stifled. As Cardinal Ouellet himself has said:

As members of the Church, we must have the courage to ask humbly for God’s pardon, as well as for the forgiveness of His “little ones” who have been wounded; we must remain close to them on their road of suffering, seeking in every possible way to heal and bind up their wounds following the example of the Good Samaritan. The first step on this road is to listen to them carefully and to believe their painful stories.

For the Church, then, this very well may be more than just one night of fasting and prayer, but a long season in St Patrick’s Purgatory.

Indeed. Read it all.

UPDATE: Via Rocco, while doing St. Patrick’s Penance, there was a meeting of abuse survivors

And check in with Rocco Palmo for all the best (and fastest) coverage of the IEC.

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • http://leelusplace.blogspot.com leelu

    This gives me pause: “The first step on this road is to listen to them carefully and to believe their painful stories.” only because it is relatively easy for adults to convince a child to point and accusing finger where there is no actual proof. The McMarten case in Southern California back in the 80s is a case in point.

    The topic of child abuse seems to cause more fear, heat, light and noise than anything else, as I think it should. These predators must be brought to justice. But, be careful of false accusations by children who have been manipulated by their elders.

  • kenneth

    Is it a cynical act or one of real contrition? Only the cardinal himself knows the answer to that. A more important question is whether the prevailing culture of leadership is dominated by real contrition or just simple regret that it all came out. The truth of that will be revealed with perfect clarity by the actions of leadership going forward. If the contrition is real, if they really do “get it”, then they won’t need a single photo-opp. If it’s just spin and PR and insincere, 1,000 photo opps will never be enough.

  • Shane

    Dear Ms Scalia

    If you would like to get a flavour of the IEC2012 in Dublin, may I suggest readers visit the IEC2012 website and check out the blog of short pieces. Last night was the Eucharistic Procession around the RDS with approx 12,000 people – extrememly up lifting for embattled Irish catholics!

    At the sametime, the texts of the main homilies and addresses given to the plenary session in the RDS Arena are also being posted on the IEC2012 website and some personal favourites I would recommend are Br Alois from Taize and Ms Breda O’Brien who was speaking about family and marriage. For those on Facebook, I would suggest the page of the 50th International Eucharistic Congress for photos of the events as well as relevent links. Also iCatholic is a new “youtube” which is being set up in Ireland for catholic groups and it is carrying interviews and streaming from the Congress.


    ps: I havent included websites here as I am not 100% sure how to incorporate them into comments without sending it to spam, I will send them on a seperate comment.

  • Shane

    Following on from my previous post:

    IEC website – http://www.iec2012.ie

    iCatholic – http://www.icatholic.ie/