By Kevin Kelly
Catholic Key Associate Editor
KANSAS CITY — There were no ifs, no ands, no buts.
On behalf of the entire Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, apostolic administrator Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann apologized deeply to the victims of sexual abuse by members of the church, be they clergy, religious or lay, professional or volunteer, and especially the abuse committed by priests.
“Sadly, clergy sexual abuse creates a second, deeper and in some way even more complicated and tenacious wound,” he told some 125 worshipers who gathered Aug. 12 at St. Thomas More Parish.
“It is a spiritual wound resulting not only by having been hurt by someone you trust, but from someone who represented to you the church and in some measure, even symbolized God,” Archbishop Naumann said.
“The unique and insidious nature of these wounds is that they can impede those victimized from being able to approach the very place one should be able to come for healing and comfort — the church,” he said. “And even more devastating, it can block our ability to reach out to Our Lord — Divine Physician, the ultimate healer.”
The prayer service called HOPE was modeled after services prepared by the U.S. bishops and was sponsored and organized by St. Thomas More Parish and the diocesan Office of Child and Youth Protection. It included a reading from Lamentations 3: 1-4 (“The Lord’s acts of mercy are not exhausted, his compassion is not spent”), the Beatitudes from the Gospel of Matthew (“Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted’), and a special Litany of Healing (“For children wounded and tearful. Save, heal and protect them, O Lord”).
Future healing services will be held 7 p.m. Sept. 9 at St. Elizabeth Parish in Kansas City, 7 p.m. Oct. 15 at Sacred Heart Parish in Warrensburg, and 7 p.m. Nov. 11 at Nativity of Mary Parish in Independence.
In addition, a special diocesan Lamentation Service will be held at 2 p.m. June 26, 2016, during the jubilee Year of Mercy, at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Kansas City.
The Office of Child and Youth Protection sent personal invitations to all people known to have been victimized by a clergyman., regardless of how long ago.
The office also provided counselors on site at St. Thomas More, and urged anyone who has been or is being victimized, or knows of any abuse of a child committed by any church clergy or employee to call law enforcement, the Missouri Division of Family Services and diocesan ombudsman Jenifer Valenti at (816) 812-2500, or by e-mail at email@example.com.
“I offer my heartfelt apology on the part of priests, deacons, religious and laity of the diocese,” Archbishop Naumann said.
“I am ashamed and saddened that this terrible injustice was done to you by a member, a representative of our church. I apologize that we failed to protect you,” he said.
Archbishop Naumann also apologized to victims who came forward, but were not treated “with respect and compassion.”
“As a bishop, I also apologize to the priests, religious and laity for the pain you have suffered because of our failure as bishops to protect the innocent, to provide compassionate care to the victims, and to respond swiftly, transparently and effectively to the misconduct of the clergy and other representatives of the church,” he said.
“Thanks in part to the courage of victims in challenging the bishops and the church to address this cancer within our community, the bishops of the United States are committed to making the church the safest place on the planet for children,” Archbishop Naumann said.
“My commitment is that any allegation of abuse will be taken seriously and we will do everything possible to ascertain the truth,” he said.
“Where abuse has occurred, we will cooperate fully with law enforcement and will make certain that perpetrators are first and foremost prevented from being able to abuse again,” the archbishop said.
“I hope it gives some measure of comfort to victims of abuse that because of your courage in coming forward and challenging the church to confront the issues of sexual abuse, our church is a much safer place today,” he said.
“You have helped prevent children today and others in the future from experiencing the pain you know too well,” Archbishop Naumann said.
Archbishop Naumann urged victims to come to Jesus to find the healing to overcome the anger and hatred they feel.
He told the story of Imaculee Illibagiza whose parents and two brothers were slaughtered in the Rwanda genocide of the mid-1990s, and who herself had to hide for months.
She cursed the Hutu killers, some of whom were neighbors of her family, and wished they would burn in hell.
She couldn’t recite the Lord’s prayer with the words, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
Then Illibagiza through her prayers came to see the killers as children of God still, just as she was a child of God.
She finally began to pray that they would realize the horrors they had done before they died so that they could be saved.
“A tremendous peace came over Imaculee at this moment,” Archbishop Naumann said.
“God had given her a great gift. He had freed her heart from being held captive by feelings of hatred and revenge,” he said.
“Forgiving is different than forgetting,” the archbishop said.
“Forgiving is not denying the horrible evil done by the perpetrators. Forgiving is a grace not to continue being victimized by the perpetrators. It is a liberation from being consumed by anger that can impede one from being able to experience the beauty and joy of the present moment,” he said.
Archbishop Naumann said that anger “is a healthy and normal reaction to abuse.”
“I am not suggesting that victims should push down and deny these legitimate feelings,” he said.
“I am praying that in the time appropriate for you that these feelings of anger will not dominate your heart forever,” he said.
“I pray for this grace because you do not deserve to be bound up by anger for the rest of your lives. I pray that your hearts can be liberated so you can experience the peace, the joy and the hope the Lord desires for you,” Archbishop Naumann said.
“May the Lord tonight touch each of our hearts with his healing grace,” he said.
“Where there is hurt, may he bring healing. Where there is strife, may he bring peace. May he help us as a church to surround with compassion and love those who have been victimized,” he said.
“May he help each of us to do our part to remain ever vigilant in the protection of our children,” Archbishop Naumann said. “Renew our determination, Lord, so this will never happen again. Never, never again.”