Reparation and repentance: Bishop Olson celebrates Mass for Child Abuse Prevention Month
FORT WORTH — Bishop Michael Olson opened his homily on St. Mark’s feast day by asking for the saint’s intercession to help heal those who have been harmed by the terrible evil of abuse.
The prelate celebrated the second annual in-person and livestreamed Mass of Reparation for Sins of Sexual Abuse at St. Patrick Cathedral on April 25. The Mass helps close the Diocese of Fort Worth’s observation of Child Abuse Prevention Month which runs throughout the month of April.
The bishop celebrated the Mass for the intention of reparation for sins of sexual abuse perpetrated against minors and the vulnerable, especially by those serving in public ministry in the name of the Church.
“Instead of driving out demons, speaking new languages, and picking up serpents to remove them with bravery and fortitude, [many shepherds within the Church] decided to be driven out and to hide from the responsibilities for which they were anointed by God,” Bishop Olson said.
But he made clear that reparation goes beyond remorse and requires “contrition and firm purpose of amendment.” He noted two necessities from the readings on which we should meditate as we beg God for reparation: vigilance and fortitude.
With vigilance, the faithful are able to avoid subjective and relativistic approaches to moral life that make it easy to justify evil actions.
“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,” he said.
With fortitude, Catholics are able to take up their legitimate responsibility to defend the vulnerable and innocent.
“We ask [God] 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,” he said.
Because of the secretive nature of abuse, in the past people needed to be told that it happens, Director of Safe Environment Sandra Schrader-Farry said. Now they know abuse exists, and the faithful need to ask, “What can we do about it?” and be prepared to take action.
Schrader-Farry has worked to help prepare members of the diocese to better understand abuse, to be able to identify it, and to learn to prevent it.
The statistics aren’t pretty. According to Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization, 1 in 9 girls and 1 in 53 boys under the age of 18 experience sexual abuse.
TexProtects, the Texas Association for the Protection of Children, shares equally horrifying numbers: “In Texas, more than four children die from physical abuse or neglect on average every week, 184 children are confirmed victims daily, and more than seven children are maltreated every hour.”
The numbers rise when factoring in the number of adults who have endured abuse.
According to Schrader-Farry, the Mass of Reparation is the “high focal point of anything we can do” for Child Abuse Prevention Month.
“What better way to offer prayers for those than to lay it down at Christ’s feet through this beautiful Mass?” she asked.
But diocesan outreach for Child Abuse Prevention Month will not stop there.
On Friday, April 29, at the Catholic Center, the diocese is hosting an event regarding human trafficking called “Innocence Lost to Human Trafficking.”
This event will help participants recognize the signs of trafficking recruitment, how traffickers control their victims, and what each of us can do to stop human trafficking.
“We try to raise awareness that it’s not a problem somewhere else with someone else’s child. It’s a problem in our community,” Schrader-Farry said.
Although it is not an easy subject, it is a pressing one regardless of where you live or whether or not you have children, she said.
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Editor’s note: The full text of Bishop Olson’s homily can be found here.