Moments into a Mass of Reparation and Healing at St. Euphrasia Church in Granada Hills on Thursday night, Bishop Joseph V. Brennan invited the congregation to kneel.
He then explained how appropriate he thought it would be for him to lay prostrate in front of the altar, asking Msgr. James Gehl and Father Anselm Nwakuna to join him on each side in the act of submissive humility.
For the last several weeks, in the wake of the reawakening abuse scandal affecting the Catholic Church in the U.S., Gehl thought it was also appropriate to allow his church — which is just steps away from the elementary school that it supports — to gather and pray for strength as well as allow conversation to begin for the healing process.
The Mass of Reparation and Healing was the conclusion of a Novena for Healing of Our Church. After Brennan’s Mass celebration, an hour-and-a-half public forum in the church followed to allow for questions and answers.
It achieved what Gehl said he hoped it could.
“As soon as I heard about this issue come up again, it brought back a lot of emotion in me,” said Gehl, who used to work as Director of the Office of Family Life for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. “I put out a prayer that we recite at church each Mass that we have been doing for weeks. Then we decided to do something more formal, the novena — nine days with a prayer — which was to culminate with this Mass.”
Brennan said in his homily that as he prepares to go to Baltimore in November for a meeting of bishops, he wants to take concerns from parishioners and present them as the next step in finding a resolution.
“I’ve only been a bishop for three years — I’m pretty much a rookie in this thing,” said the former vicar general and pastor at Holy Trinity Church in San Pedro.
“Having gone to these meetings the past three years, it was kind of business as usual. This time, we all have a sense it cannot be, it will not be, business as usual. Things need to change. Especially with the bishops in terms of accountability and transparency. We need to be accountable for our own mistakes and how things have been mishandled.
“I think bishops have been for too long in damage-control mode. The first thought is to protect the institution, to defend the Church. This means different things to different people. This is not unique to the Church. It happens with big institutions. Big government. They are in ‘fix it’ mode, but they really don’t fix things. Things get worse instead of better. We have to do things differently.”
Brennan referenced a letter he said he received that stated, “I’m tired of your apologies. Don’t apologize. Do something. Change.” He ended his homily with a new stanza he created for the song “We Are One Body” that included his singing the words: “See the victims long for a chance to speak. By the word of the Lord that we all seek.”
As part of an expressive outpouring of comments in the post-Mass conversation, Brennan was seated facing the congregation in front of the altar with Gehl and Nwakuna. Joining them was Dr. Heather Banis, the coordinator of the Victims Assistance Ministry at the archdiocese, who explained what her office does in concert with the office of Safeguard the Children.
Full story at Angelus News.