U.S. bishops to hold seven days of intense prayer, sacrifice in reparation for sins, cover-ups

DETROIT — As the United States bishops prepare to gather in Baltimore later this week to make critical decisions related to the sexual abuse crisis, they will first turn their eyes to the Lord in an intense period of prayer and fasting for the victims of the crisis, and for the reparation of heinous sins committed by some of the Church’s pastors.

In a letter to faithful in the Archdiocese of Detroit, Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron said he will be joining his brother bishops in the seven-day period of fasting, prayer and discernment leading up to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ semi-annual general assembly Nov. 12-14.

“With my brother bishops across the nation, I will be dedicating myself to seven days of intensified prayer and fasting, from Monday, Nov. 5, through Sunday, Nov. 11,” Archbishop Vigneron said. “The intentions for this period of prayer and sacrifice are three-fold: For the healing and support of all victims of clergy sexual abuse; for the conversion and just punishment of perpetrators and concealers of sexual abuse; and for the strength of the bishops to be holy shepherds in protecting and leading our sheep from all harm.”

On Nov. 12, the first day of the bishops’ three-day assembly, bishops will spend the entire day in prayer, including Mass in an on-site chapel following opening addresses from Galveston-Houston Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the USCCB, and Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio.

Archbishop Vigneron, who serves as secretary of the bishops’ body and as a member of the USCCB’s high-ranking Administrative Committee, said Catholics who feel called to do so may join the bishops in praying for the intentions of the period of fasting and reparation.

“I would also be grateful for any prayers for me and my brother bishops during our general assembly, that we may follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit in responding to the tragedy of clergy sexual abuse in the Church,” Archbishop Vigneron said.

“In sending you this letter, these words of St. Paul come to mind: ‘Bear one another’s burdens, and so you will fulfill the law of Christ’ (Gal 6:20),” the archbishop continued. “It is my solemn duty as Archbishop to assume in prayer the burdens of our wounded Church. Thank you for your willingness to consider praying with me and for me as I join my brother bishops in this nationwide effort of prayer and reparation. Please be assured of my prayers for you, as well.”

During their business sessions, the U.S. bishops will discuss and vote on a series on concrete measures to respond to the abuse, including those approved for their agenda at the September meeting of the Administrative Committee, which is the conference’s highest authority outside the full body of bishops.

Actions approved by the committee Sept. 19 and to be voted on include approving the establishment of a third-party confidential reporting system for claims of any abuse by bishops.

Committee members also instructed the bishops' Committee on Canonical Affairs and Church Governance to develop proposals for policies addressing restrictions on bishops who were removed or resigned because of allegations of abuse of minors or adults.

They also initiated the process of developing a code of conduct for bishops regarding sexual misconduct with a minor or adult or "negligence in the exercise of his office related to such cases."

In Baltimore, the bishops also will hear reports from the National Advisory Council and National Review Board.

Catholic News Service contributed to this report.