Life on the Chrism Trail

Homily for the Feast of St. Mark

Mass of Reparation for Sins of Sexual Abuse

April 25, 2022
St. Patrick Cathedral
Fort Worth, TX

1 Peter 5:5b-14
Psalm 89:2-3, 6-7, 16-17
Mark 16:15-20

Saint Mark concludes his Gospel with the words that we have just proclaimed and heard, “Then the Lord Jesus, after He spoke to them, was taken up into heaven and took His seat at the right hand of God. But they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the word through accompanying signs.” To obey this command of the Lord Jesus, we gather here this evening to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass on this Feast of Saint Mark, the Evangelist, for the intention of reparation for sins of sexual abuse perpetrated against minors by anyone but especially those who harmed minors and violated the trust inherent in a relationship of public ministry in the name of the Church. We ask the intercession of Saint Mark to help heal those who have been harmed by suffering this terrible evil from this grave and mortal sin.

It is important for us to be mindful that we are praying for the reparation for sins and asking God’s mercy upon each of us, those harmed directly, those wounded indirectly, and those in need of forgiveness and conversion. We are here to address our worship and prayers to almighty God for the sins that directly offend Him and destroy charity. We are not here simply to express remorse for crimes committed. Remorse is not needed; contrition and firm purpose of amendment are the cause for our being here in seeking God’s grace.

The readings given to us by the Church this evening offer us the substance for two points on which we should meditate as we beg God for reparation. Those two things are vigilance and fortitude.

Authentic reparation for sins of child sexual abuse can only take place if we are vigilant about resisting the influence of the Devil and not denying his existence nor his total hatred for human beings. The Devil exists and he hates us, especially because as human beings, God has created us in His image and likeness. Many of the great sins of sexual abuse against minors were perpetrated in a culture that denied that there exist intrinsically evil acts. This culture began to flourish in the 1960s because of an ethical system known as proportionalism. This system denied the existence of evil on any level beyond that of pre-moral values and promoted a relativism between good and evil denying that there was anything that could be classified as objectively evil. This ethical system is based upon the teaching of Immanuel Kant and his emphasis on subjective moral values in place of concrete actions, the performance of which develop a personal moral character, as Saint Thomas Aquinas taught. This system was developed and espoused by many moral theologians and chiefly by the American moral theologian, Father Charles Curran. It was taught recklessly with approbation throughout seminaries in the United States well into the 1980s until it was authoritatively rejected by Pope Saint John Paul II in his encyclical entitled, Veritatis Splendor in 1993.

This ethical system of proportionalism is not the cause of the grave sin of child sexual abuse. Yet, the system greatly facilitated an approach to moral life that made it possible for people to justify any evil act by private subjective values and circumstances. It is a system that permitted the incredible moral claim that one could do evil to achieve good. This system further removed the spiritual and moral responsibility to be vigilant against evil in our own lives and in the lives of others, such that the accountability of charity diminished among many entrusted with the ministry of vigilance.

If we are to offer God true reparation, we must also include reparation for religious leaders’ and ethicists’ embrace of this destructive and relativistic system and not exclusively for the grave sins that have been perpetrated against innocent victims. Reparation must be made in prayer for the teaching of such destructive theories that promoted neither the sobriety nor the vigilance required to protect vulnerable minors from predation and seduction or the resistance to the temptation of the Devil towards these and other mortal sins. “Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the Devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in faith, knowing that your brothers and sisters throughout the world undergo the same sufferings.”

This lack of vigilance prompted in too many a sleepy disposition of moral indifference that culminated in cowardice in place of fortitude. This moral drowsiness promoted apathy and indifference such that when these grave sins were brought to the attention of persons accountable with authority, their all too frequent response was to deny, to evade, to equivocate, and to hide from their legitimate responsibility to protect the vulnerable. At best, many of these shepherds slid with cowardice into the weak role of hirelings or even worse, formally cooperated with the predation of the wolves misrepresenting moral laxity as compassion. Instead of driving out demons, speaking new languages, and picking up serpents to remove them with bravery and fortitude, they decided to be driven out and to hide from the responsibilities for which they were anointed by God.

Vigilance and fortitude. We ask God for forgiveness for every person who has been harmed in any way by Church leadership’s lack of vigilance and fortitude. We ask God to spare us mercifully from the scourge of child sex abuse and from all sins that offend Him and destroy human beings. We ask Him to enlighten our minds, to embolden our wills, and to sober our hearts, that we might be vigilant and courageous with His grace by caring for the vulnerable and protecting them from the predation of the devil.

“The God of all grace who called you to His eternal glory through Christ Jesus
will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you after you have suffered a little. To Him be dominion forever.” Let this be our prayer as we offer this Mass and as we approach the altar to be nourished and restored by the Body and Blood of Christ. Then, having been nourished, let us obediently be sent “into the whole world to proclaim the Gospel to every creature” with fortitude born of the confidence that “whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned.”

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