By Sally Morrow
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (RNS) A single chime rang out after each abuse victim’s statement was read over the speakers at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in downtown Kansas City, a solemn echo to enduring pain.
It was a simple, symbolic gesture but one that had an almost inexpressible resonance for those who had been abused, and for many Catholics in a diocese so identified with clergy abuse that its last bishop was forced to resign.
“The pain was so intense, I did not want to live,” said one person in testimony from victims that was read out during the special liturgy of penitence on Sunday (June 26).
At the “Service of Lament” other readers voiced similar messages of pain, and also accusations at the church itself:
“When I was brave enough to tell you the truth, you chose to side with my abuser.”
“I had faith in my God, but you betrayed my faith.”
Bishop James V. Johnston Jr., head of the Diocese of Kansas City-Saint Joseph since last November, was forthright in acknowledging those charges:
“I am here to confess, apologize and repent for the sins of those who held the sacred trust of the church, and betrayed that trust,” Johnston said as dozens of priests from around the diocese, all wearing purple stoles symbolizing penance, stood around the altar and prayed for the healing of children sexually abused by priests.
The bishop’s apology was directed toward not only survivors of abuse, but also their families, the community and innocent priests in the diocese who have been affected by the scandal. About 450 lay people attended the service.
Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Johnston’s predecessor, former Bishop Robert Finn, in April 2015, following reports of sexual abuse in the diocese and his failure to report the abuse and remove priests from their parishes.