US priests hold day of public penance for sex abuse scandal

 A group of priests in California are holding a day of public penance today - to apologise to victims of the Catholic church's sex abuse scandal. Priests from Orange County, who meet regularly to pray and talk, came up with the idea during a recent discussion about the troubles in Boston. Fr Bill Barman, pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes parish in Santa Ana, and Fr John McAndrew, administrator of San Francisco Solano parish in Santa Margarita, decided one way to grasp the nettle of the continuing scandal would be public acts of contrition -- not something the cardinals, bishops and priests responsible have undertaken. They got together with Catholic Workers Dwight and Leia Smith, in Santa Ana, who agreed to let the house telephone and e-mail address (714-835-6346; be used by people who wanted to offer suggestions for penances for the priests. Fr John said: "The house has been inundated with calls. Some people just want to talk. Some don't understand why priests who have not been involved in the sex scandal want to do public acts of contrition on behalf of those who have. We've spent a good deal of time explaining about choosing to take on communal responsibility, making sacrifices for the whole, even though we didn't do anything wrong." "Asking the Catholic Worker to join us really makes the connection with the ones who are physically oppressed and forgotten," he said. . Leia said the callers have included a "Jewish lady in Los Angeles and a Pentecostal minister in Texas, both supportive.." She said callers were "doing their best to come up with suggestions as helpful as possible, everything from working in a location for the developmentally disabled, to praying in front of the Blessed Sacrament for one hour a week, to praying for the victims by name." "Priests have wanted to do something, but I think most found themselves kind of compromised -- perceived as more a part of the problem than part of the solution," said Fr John. He has a daily reminder of the problem - Fr John is administrator of a parish whose founding pastor, Fr Michael Pecharich, publicly resigned earlier this year as he admitted he had "transgressed the personal boundaries of an adolescent boy 19 years previously." Fr John said: "What I found in coming to this parish in July, was that people were just thoroughly deflated. Our Masses are not as crowded as they were a year ago, and the collection has dropped off. " A number of priests were joining the group today. They planned to fast and pray and reflect on the suggestions they have received. "I think we actually have an opportunity to do something for the Body of Christ," said Fr John. source: Los Angeles Times/Catholic Reporter

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