Every Holy Thursday, Pope John Paul II would address all priests of the universal Church by letter. In his message dated 17 March 2002, the Saintly Pontiff wrote the following:
At this time, as priests, we are personally and profoundly afflicted by the sins of some of our brothers who have betrayed the grace of Ordination in succumbing even to the most grievous forms of the mysterium iniquitatis at work in the world. Grave scandal is caused, with the result that a dark shadow of suspicion is cast over all the other fine priests who perform their ministry with honesty and integrity and often with heroic self-sacrifice. As the Church shows her concern for the victims and strives to respond in truth and justice to each of these painful situations, all of us — conscious of human weakness, but trusting in the healing power of divine grace — are called to embrace the “mysterium Crucis” and to commit ourselves more fully to the search for holiness. We must beg God in his Providence to prompt a whole-hearted reawakening of those ideals of total self-giving to Christ which are the very foundation of the priestly ministry. (no. 11)”
On the subject of scandal, the Catechism teaches, “Scandal is an attitude or behavior which leads another to do evil. The person who gives scandal becomes his neighbor’s tempter. He damages virtue and integrity; he may even draw his brother into spiritual death” (no. 2284).
Pope Francis once assured diocesan priests: “Sanctity is stronger than scandals.”
Please consider a prayerful response to recent painful scandals by praying the Rosary of Reparation.
The Sorrowful Mysteries of Reparation
First Sorrowful Mystery: The Agony in the Garden
For Victims of Priest Abuse
Matthew 26:38: “Then he said to them, ‘My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.’ And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.’ ”
Reflection from Salvifici Doloris, no. 9
“Within each form of suffering endured by man, and at the same time at the basis of the whole world of suffering, there inevitably arises the question: why?… But only the suffering human being knows what he is suffering and wonders why, and he suffers in a humanly speaking still deeper way if he does not find a satisfactory answer. This is a difficult question, just as is a question closely akin to it, the question of evil. Why does evil exist? Why is there evil in the world? When we put the question this way, we are always, at least to a certain extent, asking a question about suffering too. . . . Man can put this question to God with all the emotion of his heart and with his mind full of dismay and anxiety; and God expects the question and listens to it, as we see in … the Book of Job.”
Eternal Father, Your Son agonized in Gethsemane when the weight of all sin pressed upon His Innocence causing Him to sweat blood. He endured the terror of human suffering, the tyranny of injustice and the horror of all sin to redeem sinners. He revealed His mercy by suffering His Passion. We beg You to heal and bless the victims of priestly abuse who have shared a portion of Christ’s Passion. We ask You to restore what was unjustly taken from the victims and their loved ones. We implore You to open the floodgates of mercy on all victims for renewal of their scarred memory, broken hearts, dishonored bodies, and inconsolable spirits. In your loving grace, restore their lives. We entrust all victims of clergy abuse to our Sorrowful Mother who held her crucified Son.
Second Sorrowful Mystery: The Scourging at the Pillar
For Priests Who Hurt Others
Matthew 27:24-26: “So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, ‘I am innocent of this righteous man’s blood; see to it yourselves.’ And all the people answered, ‘His blood be on us and on our children!’ Then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified.”
Reflection from Salvifici Doloris, nos. 12-13
“Suffering must serve for conversion, that is, for the rebuilding of goodness in the subject, who can recognize the divine mercy in this call to repentance. The purpose of penance is to overcome evil, which under different forms lies dormant in man. Its purpose is also to strengthen goodness both in man himself and in his relationships with others and especially with God. But in order to perceive the true answer to the ‘why’ of suffering, we must look to the revelation of divine love, the ultimate source of the meaning of everything that exists. Love is also the richest source of the meaning of suffering, which always remains a mystery; we are conscious of the insufficiency and inadequacy of our explanations. Christ causes us to enter into the mystery and to discover the ‘why’ of suffering, as far as we are capable of grasping the sublimity of divine love.”
Eternal Father, the righteous blood of Your Son was not spared. For sinners, He suffered unto death. We bring before You the priests who have hurt others by all forms of abuse. All men have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23), but when a priest falls into sin and hurts a person entrusted to him, some goodness dies in the entire Body of Christ. Although the transgressions of some priests may be horrific and people cry out for vengeance, we entrust them to Your fatherly providence for only You can judge the heart of man. We trust that your mercy and justice intertwine. We entrust fallen priests to the heart of our Sorrowful Mother.
Third Sorrowful Mystery: The Crowning with Thorns
For Falsely Accused Priests
Matthew 27:27-30: “Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the praetorium, and they gathered the whole battalion before him. And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe upon him, and plaiting a crown of thorns they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him they mocked him saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ And they spat upon him, and took the reed and struck him on the head.”
Reflection from Salvifici Doloris, no. 16
“Christ drew close above all to the world of human suffering through the fact of having taken this suffering upon his very self. During his public activity, he experienced not only fatigue, homelessness, misunderstanding even on the part of those closest to him, but, more than anything, he became progressively more and more isolated and encircled by hostility and the preparations for putting him to death. Christ is aware of this, and often speaks to his disciples of the sufferings and death that await him: ‘Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man will be delivered to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him to the Gentiles; and they will mock him, and spit upon him, and scourge him, and kill him; and after three days he will rise.’ Christ goes towards his Passion and death with full awareness of the mission that he has to fulfill precisely in this way. Precisely by means of this suffering he must bring it about ‘that man should not perish, but have eternal life.’ Precisely by means of his Cross, he must strike at the roots of evil, planted in the history of man and in human souls.”
Eternal Father, we lift up the priests who have been wrongly accused; who, although innocent, are treated like outcasts and forsaken. Mercifully look upon the priests who suffer false accusations and see their resemblance to Christ who was stripped of everything until He hung on the Cross, a victim of love. We ask Your paternal solicitude for those priests who have been set apart like lepers though they are innocent of the charges against them. Graciously heal the wounds — especially anger, depression, anxiety, loneliness, rejection, and fear. Console them by Your loving Presence. We entrust all priests to Mary, our Sorrowful Mother.
Fourth Sorrowful Mystery: Jesus Carries His Cross
Matthew 27:31-32: “And when they [the Roman soldiers] had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe, and put his own clothes on him, and led him away to crucify him. As they were marching out, they came upon a man of Cyrene, Simon by name; this man they compelled to carry his cross.”
Reflection from Salvifici Doloris, no. 16
“Christ severely reproves Peter when the latter wants to make him abandon the thoughts of suffering and of death on the Cross. And when, during his arrest in Gethsemane, the same Peter tries to defend him with the sword, Christ says, ‘Put your sword back into its place. . . . But how then should the scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?’ And he also says, ‘Shall I not drink the cup which the Father has given me?’ This response, like others that appear in different points of the Gospel, shows how profoundly Christ was imbued by the thought that he had already expressed in the conversation with Nicodemus: ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.’ Christ goes toward his own suffering, aware of its saving power; he goes forward in obedience to the Father, but primarily he is united to the Father in this love with which he has loved the world and man in the world. And for this reason St. Paul will write of Christ, ‘He loved me and gave himself for me.’ ”
Eternal Father, as Your beloved Son was one open wound as He carried His Cross to Calvary, the Church today is wounded also by repeated scandal. The Body of Christ experiences the weight of sin and persecution. We have corporately sinned against the greatest commandment of divine love. The Church is in need of the healing power of divine mercy. Graciously bring about a movement of medicinal reparation. Enkindle the hearts of the faithful to seek the healing balm of sacramental life. We know that You will bring the greater good from the Church’s immense pain as we humble ourselves. Mercifully cure our sin-sickness; take away our darkness, blindness, deafness, stubbornness, divisions, depression, sloth, vice, and pride. Restore our baptismal innocence that we may glorify You. Through the Eucharist, may the Divine Physician manifest His healing power. We entrust this petition to the heart of Mary, our Sorrowful Mother.
Fifth Sorrowful Mystery: The Crucifixion of Our Lord
“And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means the place of the skull), they offered him wine to drink, mingled with gall; but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. And when they had crucified him, they divided his garments among them by casting lots; then they sat down and kept watch over him there. And over his head, they put the charge against him, which read, ‘This is Jesus the King of the Jews.’ ”
Reflection from Salvifici Doloris, no. 30
“One could certainly extend the list of the forms of suffering that have encountered human sensitivity, compassion, and help, or that have failed to do so. The first and second parts of Christ’s words about the Final Judgment unambiguously show how essential it is, for the eternal life of every individual, to ‘stop,’ as the Good Samaritan did, at the suffering of one’s neighbor, to have ‘compassion’ for that suffering, and to give some help. In the messianic program of Christ, which is at the same time the program of the Kingdom of God, suffering is present in the world in order to release love, in order to give birth to works of love towards neighbor, in order to transform the whole of human civilization into a ‘civilization of love.’ . . . At one and the same time, Christ has taught man to do good by his suffering and to do good to those who suffer. In this double aspect, he has completely revealed the meaning of suffering.”
Eternal Father, before Your Son Jesus expired on the Cross, He offered the greatest gift, saying, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Help the faithful to offer Christ-like forgiveness from the heart. Aid the Church in applying the healing salve of love to the deep wounds inflicted by scandal and persecution. Heal the anger and frustration of Your people who are mystified by what has happened in the Church, especially through Her leaders. Only by Your grace can we be reconciled to one another and forgive as does Jesus. Thank You for the many good servants who are working to heal those who suffer the pain of abuse. We implore You, O God, to transform the wounded Church into a healed family of sacrificial love. Cleanse Your house of prayer of what is defiled. Through the grace of forgiveness, make us healthy and holy. We entrust this petition to the heart of Mary, our Sorrowful Mother.
Author’s note: These reflections are slightly edited and reprinted from the book, Praying for Priests: A Mission or the New Evangelization, which available from Sophia Institute Press.
SPIRITUAL ADOPTION OF PRIESTS