Good Friday Vigil: Bearing Witness
from Vince Grenough, VOTF Louisville, KY

On Good Friday afternoon, about sixty people stood in silent vigil in front of Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago for over an hour. We were there to support those who have been sexually abused by priests or other representatives of the Catholic Church. We were there to call for the resignation of Cardinal Francis George. Most of us carried large signs, photos or other objects that spoke of our purpose for being there. I saw two large "healing quilts" send by the Healing Alliance (formerly the Linkup). One woman from Louisville carried the First Communion dress and photo of a survivor, who was raped on that special day by a priest, a trusted family friend. He continued to abuse her frequently for four more years. That child’s sister, two years older, suffered the same horrible abuse.

The vigil group was composed of people from many different places and different groups. I saw people I knew from Illinois, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee, Arizona and Indiana. I saw people who were members of Voice of the Faithful, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, and Call to Action. Several were individuals who had heard about what we were doing and came to join us in vigil. The mood of the group was serious, but somehow joyful as well.

As we stood on the sidewalk across from the Cathedral about four hundred people inside prayed the Stations of the Cross. Police who were there, inside and out, were professional and courteous. Several media representatives took pictures and spoke to individuals. It was a beautiful, breezy day.

As people came out of the Cathedral several of them walked across four lanes of busy State Street traffic to tell us they agree with us - "100%". Passing cars and trucks often honked their horns supportively. Some walkers stopped and chatted with us. Many approved of what we were doing. I saw many simply ignore us, and one woman who verbally challenged one of the vigilers.

Eight of us from the Louisville VOTF affiliate made the trip to Chicago. Before we left, we met with about a dozen others, including survivors, in front of our Cathedral of the Assumption for prayer. The prayer time began with the statement attached below. It ended with a group blessing of those of us who were going on the trip. Our prayer leader then gave each of us a small, cut yellow tulip in a water vial. She asked us to care for our flower, unhandy as that would be, as though we were caring for an abused person.

This day especially, I was proud and grateful to be a member of Voice of the Faithful. I think almost everyone there had similar feelings.


When you were young, we all believed that our priests would always treat you with respect and love, and would never harm you in any way. We were wrong to trust some of them, the ones who abused you. Instead of treating you with respect they raped your body and your soul. We now wish we could have known what they were doing to you so we could have stopped them and cared for you.

RESPONSE: For this we are sorry and we beg your forgiveness.

When you were finally mature enough to tell what had happened to you, we all trusted that our bishops would believe you, protect you and try to heal your wounds. Instead, they listened to their attorneys and focused on denying responsibility, avoiding scandal and saving money. We should not have trusted them, but we did.

RESPONSE: For this we are sorry and we beg your forgiveness.

When our bishops promised that your abusers would never be in a position to abuse a child again they were often not being truthful. When our bishops said they would correct one another fraternally, we trusted that they would do that, but they have not. We should not have trusted them, but we did.

RESPONSE: For this we are sorry and we beg your forgiveness.

When some of you filed lawsuits as a last resort to stop this evil abuse of more children, some Catholic people said you did it only for the money, and by saying this they made you victims again. That was very wrong. We should have thanked you for forcing us to see the evil that infects our Church.

RESPONSE: For this we are sorry and we beg your forgiveness.

ALL: We tell you this: We want to be able to trust our bishops but we cannot and will not trust them until they stop everything else they are doing, get down on their knees, admit their guilt, beg your forgiveness and make your healing their first priority.

ALL: We promise you this: We will demand that our bishops apply to themselves what they have applied to our priests – if they knowingly allow the abuse of one child by a priest they themselves must immediately be removed from clerical ministry.

ALL: We say all of these things because we care deeply for your welfare and your healing.

In the Vineyard
April 20, 2006
Volume 5, Issue 8
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