Prayer & Penance: Do They Really Make a Difference?

During this time of great pain in the Church, it can feel impossible to respond adequately. What can we do to stop sexual abuse and cover-ups? How can we help the many victims heal? What will really make a difference for Christ’s wounded bride, and not just pay lip service to the problem? While we as a Church continue to search for answers and healing, we are beginning a six-month campaign here at CatholicTV called Together We Rebuild to offer prayer and penance in response to the crisis of abuse.

Can prayer and penance really make a difference for such a big problem? As Catholics, we believe the answer is a resounding yes. Although we must do more than just pray and repent in order to foster healing and seek justice, it is essential that we do not neglect the components of prayer and penance in our solution.


When we pray, we cry out to the Lord and have faith that he listens and answers us. We believe that prayer is truly a conversation with God and that it is effective, not simply a habit we keep out of a sense of obligation. In the case of the abuse crisis, we are praying for healing for the victims and for purification of the Church. It is our job to listen to God in our prayer and follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit so that we are taking the proper actions that let God work through us. That is how we will discern the proper steps to take to rebuild. As we work diligently to protect all members of the Church, especially those most vulnerable, we recognize our dependence on God to bring us true, full healing in the face of so much evil.


Many people wonder why we, as a Church, need to do penance for the sins of the clergy. The truth is that when the Body of Christ is wounded, all its members suffer. We are not isolated from one another, and even though we ourselves may be hurt and scandalized by sins within the Body, we are called to be Christians who work together to heal these wounds. The sins of sexual abuse and of protecting its perpetrators call for justice, and so the whole Church begs for God’s mercy. It is an unfortunate reality that we cannot depend on the perpetrators themselves to do penance. Instead, we can choose to practice the radical love of Jesus and do penance as a Body. If nothing else, we all share the grief of the pain done to God by such grave sin. We trust that when we do reparation for these sins, even if they are not our own, God will pour out his healing mercy on the Church.

Please join us for the next six months as we offer prayer and penance for the victims of clergy sexual abuse and for the purification of the Church. These are not the only elements of the solution, but they are gravely important, and we hope that you will join us in humbly offering them to God.


Prayer & Penance: Do They Really Make a Difference?