About 100 priests and 200 parishioners filed into the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Kansas City, Missouri, Sunday afternoon in search of closure and the chance to publicly grieve. The priests draped purple sashes over their white robes to symbolize the theme of the service: lament.
"The church has been deeply wounded by the sins of her members. And those wounds have been most deeply experienced by the victims and survivors of child sexual abuse. In some ways, every member of the church has been affected," said the Bishop of the Kansas City-Saint Joseph Diocese, James V. Johnston.
Johnston apologized on behalf of the entire Kansas City-Saint Joseph Diocese for the pain sexual abuse by priests and other leaders of the church has caused. In the past year, nine healing services have been held at diocese parishes that were most affected by sexual abuse scandals under the tenure of former Bishop Robert Finn, who resigned last year. Finn is only U.S. bishop to be criminally convicted for failing to report suspected abuse.
Following hymns calling for guidance and mercy, Johnston laid prostrate in front of a stone altar and listened to the accounts of survivors of sexual abuse. The church kept the identities of the survivors private.
"The pain was so intense. I did not want to live," said one woman. A man read, "You took away my innocence and left me broken within."
Father Ken Riley replied uniquely to each survivor's statement with messages like, "Jesus said let the children come to me. I beg your forgiveness."
Johnston said he wants "to see a diocese that acknowledges its wounds and the wounded."
Forming a remembrance committee, declaring April 26 an Annual Diocesan Day of Prayer for the protection of children, and extra training for counseling victims were among his plans to heal his shaken parishioners.
Hannah Copeland is an announcer and reporter for KCUR 89.3. Reach her on Twitter @hannahecopeland.