Homily and Prayers
Mass for Prayer and Penance

By Fr. Ron Coyne
Blue Hills Collaborative: St. Anne's, Most Precious Blood, and St. Pius X in Hyde Park MA
February 3-4, 2018

[Note: This page is a transcript of Fr. Coyne's handwritten draft of his homily and prayers for the Mass for Prayer and Penance in the Archdiocese of Boston. We thank Fr. Coyne for permitting us to post these documents. The Archdiocese of Boston also provided materials for the Mass, including a link to sheet music for the song that Fr. Coyne references at the end of his homily.]

This weekend throughout the world all Catholic parishes are asked to celebrate Mass to pray for victims and survivors of sexual abuse by people in authority in the Church including priests and to ask forgiveness in the name of the Church for our failures toward children and families.  I know this subject can be very controversial and so I realize that some may choose to leave if necessary and I respect that choice.

I know there are parishioners who believe this is not the place for such a discussion and they may believe it is talked about too much – and yet there are other parishioners who would say it’s about time we addressed it at Mass.

I remember when this rampant abuse was first made public in the 1990s and exploded in the Archdiocese of Boston in the early 2000s.  I was at St. Brendan Dorchester and St. Albert’s in Weymouth and I remember preaching often about the sin and crime of sexual abuse within the Church.  People needed and wanted it to be addressed by their parish and their priests.

I believe then and now that we are not just talking about an individual severely harming a child or teenager but also the covering up of the crime by the institution itself.  In other words the coverup of the crime was and is systemic.  It became part of the system and was acceptable to many in authority including bishops.

Some will say that even that short time ago we had no idea about the extent of damage done to abuse victims and believed that the abuser could be cured by counselling or therapy.  Some wanted to believe over the years that transfers would solve the problem. But we now know how criminal those attitudes were and are.

Unfortunately the Church had become so powerful that it was allowed to handle its problems internally and not held accountable by the greater society.  Think about it, in those days everyone was Catholic – the court system, the police department, the newspapers – nobody wanted to believe that a priest or the Church itself could be sinful.

Think about this – if you believed that the Church represented God on earth and that Christ was perfect, then in your mind the Church had to be perfect – so anything that indicated that wasn’t true had to be hidden, covered up or denied.  That was allowed to happen and encouraged by many in authority including bishops.

I am very aware that there may be victims and survivors in our congregation today and I personally thank you for your presence in the church and your determination to challenge this institution and all others to openly admit what has taken place and how we have failed to live up to the gospel.  We are aware this morning of the many victims who did not survive because of the impact of trauma that led to substance abuse, living with emotional pain, and suicide.  This Mass is in their memory.  I’ve come to the conclusion that when I haven’t experienced something in my own life I need to listen to those who have.  The Catholic Church is called to listen to our people’s stories and respect them.

So whether it be the recent death of Cardinal Law in Rome or the remarks made by Pope Francis in Chile, there are survivors here in the U.S. and throughout the world who are devastated once again by their abuse and its coverup.

I realize there are many Catholic people who feel betrayed and abandoned by the Church because of the abuse itself and how it was handled.  Many of our strongest families have left the church as a result and have no desire to return.  I understand and respect their decision.  We have lost their trust and may never regain it. 

Timothy Shriver put it very clearly – “If you can’t trust the messengers, why trust the message?  It is not too much to say that the crisis in the Church is contributing to a crisis of faith in the gospel itself.  This is not a crisis of management or theology.  It is a crisis of the spirit.”

Many of those families continue to have a strong faith in God but celebrate it apart from the Church.  It is a huge loss to us and we are less because of their absence.  But these are the consequences and repercussions of being held accountable by our people.

Most people believe the Church has now removed those responsible for the abuse itself but has not held those in authority responsible for their decision-making.  There is now a website called dedicated to holding men in positions of authority in the Church accountable for their decisions and actions.

I have a great friend of mine who is a survivor.  She left the Church for many years and has recently returned to celebrate her faith once again as a Catholic.

Her journey has been and continues to be painful for her and those who love her.  She is now advising the Archdiocese and consulting with those overseeing our process of Protecting God’s Children.  I believe she was involved in the planning for this weekend’s Liturgies of Prayer and Penance.  I applaud her and thank her for her courageous witness and the trust she has placed in me personally.

So we at the parishes of the Blue Hills Collaborative express our support for all victims and survivors of child sexual abuse and as we pray for continued healing in our Church we pay tribute to all those harmed by our sin with the following song written for them by Brother Michael Herry in Australia.




Loving God, through your Son, your compassion brought healing to many.  We pray for your healing once more for all who have been profoundly wounded by abuse, especially those hurt by your ministers.

Your church also asks for forgiveness.  Words cannot express fully the sorrow we have for the great harm done by those who were called to be trusted.  We now ask for the grace to be a source of healing to all who have been abused and to be ever vigilant in protecting all your people.  We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen.


We bring simple gifts of bread and wine to this table and in memory of all your people who have been harmed or traumatized by the Church.  May we be nourished by your body and blood so that we may better represent you in our world – through Christ our Lord.  Amen.


As we prepare to leave this church today, we pray that we as your disciples may be determined to bring your compassion to all those in pain so that they may experience healing.  We also pray that the Church may continue to be all we are meant to be as we commit ourselves to transparency and accountability so we may preach the gospel faithfully.  We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

























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